A prison inmate who has served nearly 20 years for being an accomplice to a Lancaster city store clerk’s murder was again denied a request for release.
Clarence Laudenberger was 16 in 1996 when he and three other youths robbed convenience store clerk Michael Heath. Aramis Gonzalez III shot and killed Heath during the robbery.
Laudenberger was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life.
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Now 36, Laudenberger appealed, citing a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case in which that court deemed mandatory life sentences for teen killers “cruel and unusual.”
However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that standard won’t apply retroactively – meaning Laudenberger’s conviction and sentence won’t change.
In his latest appeal – which was denied Tuesday by the state Superior Court – Laudenberger claims the higher court was wrong in its retroactive ruling.
In the appeal, Laudenberger concedes that his argument doesn't have merit with the Superior Court, but is preserving his rights for future appeal.
The Superior Court, in a 3-page opinion, writes it is “bound by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision.”
Laudenberger is one of 13 inmates sentenced to life for killings committed as juveniles in Lancaster County. All have filed appeals – none have been granted relief.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling on retroactivity early next year.
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