ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The prison term of a New Mexico man who was convicted of rape as a teenager and remains ineligible for parole until he’s at least 62 is among the cases being challenged nationwide on grounds they amount to de facto juvenile life-without-parole sentences.
Joel Ira is now 36 and petitioning for release before the state Supreme Court. His attorney say his sentence, handed down for crimes when he was 14 and 15, should be overturned in light of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that found mandatory juvenile life-without-parole terms unconstitutional.
Records show Ira is among 103 New Mexico inmates sentenced to 20 years or more for crimes they committed as juveniles.
However, corrections officials say there are no known inmates facing life terms without parole for juvenile offenses.