After 37 years in prison, Mich. 'juvenile lifer' in line to have sentence reviewed

A 2016 Supreme Court ruling found mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles were cruel and unusual punishment

Lynn Moore
Muskegon Chronicle, Mich.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI - A man who's been in prison for 37 years is expected to be the first Muskegon County "juvenile lifer" to have his sentenced reviewed following a 2016 Supreme Court ruling.

Robert Louis Dukes, 55, was sentenced in 1981 to life without parole for a murder he committed when he was 17. He was convicted of the robbery and brutal beating of an 87-year-old Muskegon man.

Muskegon County has seven cases that must be reviewed as the result of a Supreme Court ruling that found mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles were cruel and unusual punishment.

Dukes' case is scheduled for review during the first week of December before Muskegon County Circuit Judge Timothy Hicks.

Dukes' attorney, Jessica Zimbelman of the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office, said among information that will be presented for the judge's consideration are circumstances of Dukes' childhood, his record in prison and his role in the crime. She said she believes the hearing will be "extensive."

Zimbelman also said her office is in negotiations with the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office regarding Dukes' sentence.

Senior Assistant Prosecutor Charles Justian agreed the two sides are in talks about Dukes' sentence. He said decisions have not been made regarding appropriate sentences in the six other juvenile lifer cases.

Dukes was convicted of the September 1981 beating death of George Madison.

Police investigating an accident involving Madison's stolen vehicle entered the elderly man's Peck Street home and discovered it had been ransacked and there was blood throughout. They found Madison in the basement tied to a pole with rope around his neck, wrists and ankles. He had severe beating injuries - including multiple fractures - to his head and body. A sheet was draped over him and stuffed in his mouth.

Madison died from the injuries five days later.

Dukes and accomplice Donald Wright, 25, were sentenced to life without parole. The state Court of Appeals upheld Dukes' murder conviction in 1982.


©2018 Muskegon Chronicle, Mich.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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