Supreme Court keeps 15-year-old killer locked up

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences without parole for children is unconstitutional.

Today, a man who was sentenced to two life terms with the possibility of release in one of the most shocking murders in recent Saint Paul history, lost his bid at the Minnesota Supreme Court after contending his two-life-term sentence as a 15 year old is cruel and unusual punishment, too.

In 1992, Kim Thoul Ouk and seven other teenagers met at the Roosevelt Projects in Saint Paul, stole three cars, and decided to rob two gas stations. During the robbery of the Total Mart on West Seventh and Davern in the Highland Park section of the city, two clerks –John Petsch and Feliuai Faamamafa — and two customers — Read Sulik and David Baer — were shot. Petsch and Faamamafa died. The arrests of Ouk and his cohorts illuminated the then-growing problem of Asian gangs in the city.

A jury convicted Ouk but his sentences included the possibility of future release because he didn’t have a criminal record.

In a request last year for resentencing, Ouk’s attorney claimed his two life sentences are functionally the same as a life sentence without parole because Ouk has to serve at least 30 years on each life term, and, thus, violates the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision. But the Minnesota Supreme Court sidestepped the question today, noting the attorney did not include the assertion in a brief filed with the court.

The Minnesota Supreme Court opinion today said the law under which Ouk was sentenced doesn’t violate the U.S. Supreme Court decision “because it does not require the imposition of the harshest term of imprisonment: life imprisonment without the possibility of release.”