A judge denied a request to scale back the sentencing exposure for Zaveon Marks, the 14 year old accused of murdering fellow Peoria teen Zarious Fair in June.
Marks, who pleaded not guilty, is being tried as an adult. Those charges carry a possible sentence of 20 to 60 years in prison, plus another 25 to life when commissioned with a handgun.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that any sentence exceeding 40 years was effectively life in prison for a juvenile. Juvenile life sentences are considered cruel and unusual punishment by the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, there are still some instances when the judge can exceed the 40 year limit.
“It requires a finding of irretrievable depravity, permanent incorrigibility or irreparable corruption beyond the possibility of rehabilitation,” said William Loeffel, the attorney representing Marks. “How can anybody say that about a 14 year old boy?”
Loeffel said juvenile cases fitting that description are extraordinarily rare — for example, cases involving multiple murders or when a police officer is killed. He said Marks’ case, on the other hand, is a “garden variety” murder charge.
But First Assistant State’s Attorney Nancy Mermelstein argued that’s up to the sentencing judge to decide.
The indictment against Marks was temporarily dropped as he was returned to juvenile court to clarify the sentencing exposure. The state is still pursuing 20 to 60 years, if he is found guilty. Because Marks is a juvenile, the handgun penalty enhancement is not required but could still apply.
Both the defense and prosecution anticipate Marks will still be tried as an adult and hope to keep his scheduled Oct. 21 jury trial.