BOISE, Idaho — The appeals lawyer for a Pocatello man convicted of killing a high school classmate nearly five years ago asked Idaho Supreme Court justices on Wednesday to dump his conviction or reduce his sentence.
Sentencing Brian Draper — who was 16 at the time of the crime — to life in prison without the possibility of parole would be unconstitutionally cruel, state appellate public defender Molly Huskey told justices.
Draper and Torey Adamcik were convicted of stabbing to death Cassie Jo Stoddart, a Pocatello High School junior, on Sept. 22, 2006. All three were 16. Draper and Adamcik then videotaped their reaction, a recording that featured prominently in their separate trials a year later.
Draper and Adamcik received a fixed life sentence for first-degree murder and 30 years-to-life for conspiracy.
Huskey argued a district court judge erred in sentencing Draper to the fixed life term. Huskey said her client's immaturity and poor judgment were partially attributable to his youth at the time of the crime and that he deserved a chance for release. She also said the jury received erroneous instructions.
"Even if this court finds that a fixed life sentence can be imposed on a juvenile, that sentence cannot be imposed based solely on the egregiousness of the offense," Huskey said.
If justices won't vacate his conviction, she wants them to give him a life sentence that allows for his release after 30 years.
Adamcik had a similar hearing with Idaho's high court last September in a bid to overturn his sentence and conviction, but justices haven't yet come back with a decision.
Idaho state deputy attorney general John McKinney urged the state high court to uphold the ruling.
McKinney cited Draper and Adamcik's video, which showed their excitement immediately following the slaying where Stoddart was stabbed more than 30 times in the house where she was pet-sitting for a family friend.
That recording, McKinney said, showed how Draper turned on Stoddart only to experience taking another person's life — even if it happened to be the life of a friend.
"It doesn't get any worse than that," McKinney said. "He did it for the thrill of killing somebody."
There's no date set for justices to rule on Draper's appeal.
Pamela Draper, Brian's mother, told The Associated Press through tears on Wednesday, "We're just holding it together."
Before the hearing, Stoddart's mother, Anna, and grandfather Paul Cisneros described the pain of losing a relative to violent crime.
"We've come to watch what happens — and to show we care," Cisneros said.
Following the hearing, Draper's parents waited to speak to Stoddart's family.
"Every time we see you, we just feel terrible," an emotional Kerry Draper told Anna Stoddart. "I know it's our son, and we still feel the need to support him. But we just feel terrible."
Draper and Adamcik are now at the Idaho State Correctional Institution.