Two men convicted for the 2000 murder of a 73-year-old man have once again lost their appeal to reverse their life sentences after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found the sentences were reasonable, despite the men’s unfortunate upbringings.
Keon Thomas and Styles Taylor were convicted of robbery and murder, among other charges, and ordered to spend the remainder of their lives in prison after they robbed a Hammond gun shop, killing owner Frank Freund.
The 7th Circuit Court, which has seen the case five times, ordered a resentencing hearing in 2015 when it held that the district court procedurally erred by failing to explain its reasons for rejecting Taylor and Thomas’ substantial mitigation arguments based on their difficult upbringings. In September 2017, a district judge resentenced Taylor and Thomas, recommending a life sentence for both men.
In that case, both men requested a below‐guidelines sentence of 30 years, arguing that their troubled childhood and familial disfunction warranted less than life in prison. Both men claimed they posed a low risk of recidivism given the age at which they would exit prison, even with a 30‐year sentence.
However, the district judge rejected that argument based on their extensive criminal history, the “heinousness of the offense and killing” and their ability to make a decision to partake in a violent robbery knowing the possible consequences.
On appeal, the men argued their life sentences were substantively unreasonable. The 7th Circuit disagreed, noting that in issuing a within‐guidelines sentence in full consideration of the facts, their life sentences were reasonable. It also noted that regardless of their efforts to reform and better their relationships with their families, those arguments did not outweigh their choice to “engage in violent crime and take another life.”
“This argument is a steep uphill climb for any defendant to make,” Judge Amy St. Eve wrote for the court. “…They recount their upbringings and explain how the trauma they faced in their formative years led them to crime.
We have no doubt about the validity of those arguments, and, if the district judge had failed to account for them, Taylor and Thomas may be entitled to a resentencing,” St. Eve continued. “But he did, thoroughly, and we do not sit to substitute our judgment with that of the sentencing judge.”
The 7th Circuit Court, therefore, found no grounds to reversal and affirmed in USA v. Styles Taylor and Keon Thomas, 17-2986, 17-3145.