An appellate court panel could free a man imprisoned since 1976 in the shooting death of a Chicago police officer after ruling that his chances for parole were unfairly denied, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The decision comes after decades of failed appeals by Ronnie Carrasquillo, 65, who was 18 in 1976 when he fired into a gang-related melee and killed officer Terrence Loftus, who was in plainclothes, trying to break up the fight. The appellate court panel ruled that Carrasquillo should be resentenced based on changing legal precedents regarding how youthful offenders are treated and how mitigating factors, such as prison rehabilitation, are considered in sentencing. It also found that Cook County Circuit Judge Alfredo Maldonado erred when he decided Carrasquillo’s original sentence of 200 to 600 years doesn’t amount to a life sentence solely because he has been eligible for parole for decades.
“Mr. Carrasquillo’s excessive sentence threatens to defeat the effectiveness of the parole system by keeping him incarcerated long after he has been effectively rehabilitated,” Appellate Justice Freddrenna Lyle said in the majority opinion. State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told the parole board she no longer opposed his release or that of another cop killer. At the center of Carrasquillo’s recent appeals was the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Miller v. Alabama, which prohibits offenders 17 years old and younger from being sentenced to mandatory life without parole. In 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court went a step further, ruling that a 40-year sentence was a de facto life sentence for a juvenile offender. Law enforcement representatives have opposed his release. Carrasquillo has been seeking parole since 1984 and came close to being released before.