High court upholds Masalmani's sentence to life in prison in 2009 murder

Ihab Masalmani continue to serve a life sentence without parole for the murder of a Chesterfield Township man following the kidnapping of the victim at a sandwich shop, the Michigan Supreme Court decided in a ruling released Friday. 

Masalmani was 17 when he and another teen, Robert Taylor, then 16, murdered Matthew Landry after kidnapping the 21-year-old from a sandwich shop in Eastpointe in 2009. Masalmani and Taylor were sentenced to life in prison without parole, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that life sentences for juvenile offenders were "cruel and unusual punishment" and ordered juvenile lifers across the country to be resentenced.

In 2015, a judge reaffirmed life sentences for Masalmani and Taylor. In Masalmani's case, the judge argued that his "prospects for rehabilitation are negligible" and was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

In a 4-3 decision, the four Republican-nominated Supreme Court justices denied Masalmani's appeal after hearing arguments from attorneys "because we are no longer persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this court." They include justices Stephen Markman, Brian Zahra, David Viviano and Beth Clement.

Masalmani and Taylor were convicted of killing 21-year-old Landry, whose body was found in 2009 in a burned-out house in Detroit. Masalmani was convicted on 18 counts, including felony murder, and Taylor was found guilty of six counts, including murder.

Police say Masalmani and Taylor kidnapped Landry and stuffed him into the trunk of a car. Landry was taken to a home where Masalmani shot and killed him. Landry's body was later found in a vacant Detroit house with a gunshot wound to his head.

The three Democratic-nominated judges dissented in separate opinions while the Republican-nominated justices affirmed the lower court's ruling.

".... the (lower) court did not consider them for what they are — circumstances and features common to juvenile offenders generally, consideration of which would lead to reasons not to impose the maximum sentence allowed by our federal Constitution," Chief Justice Bridget McCormack wrote.

In a separate dissent, justices Richard Bernstein and Megan Cavanagh wrote that they feared that following a state Supreme Court precedent in a St. Clair County murder case where the justices found no abuse of discretion by a judge would violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against sentencing an individual to "cruel and unusual punishment."