Juvenile Killer Rejects Sentence Offer

September 18, 2018

SCRANTON — A former city man convicted of killing a rival gang member when he was 16 on Monday rejected a prosecution offer of a new sentence that would have sent him to prison for 40 years to life. The decision by Christian Kenyon, now 26, came during a hearing before Lackawanna County Senior Judge Carmen Minora, who is required to resentence the defendant based on U.S. Supreme Court rulings that struck down automatic life sentences for juvenile offenders. In an attempt to move the stalled resentencing forward, Minora agreed to consider allowing Kenyon’s attorneys, George Gretz and Robert Buttner, to incorporate additional evidence that would be favorable to their client into the record. “We think this is a process that will get it back on track,” the judge said. A jury convicted Kenyon of first-degree murder in 2011 for the gang-related shooting death of Allen Fernandez along Snake Road in Ransom Twp. in July 2009. He was sentenced by Minora to life in prison without parole for the murder, plus 35½ to 71 years for two unrelated crimes. His attorneys sought resentencing based on two Supreme Court decisions, in 2012 and 2016, that barred mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court expanded on those rulings in 2017 when it found there is a presumption against a life sentence in juvenile cases. Monday’s hearing, in which Kenyon participated by video conference from the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, came against a backdrop of what Minora described as apparent disagreement between the defendant and his attorneys over how the resentencing should proceed. Kenyon has repeatedly written to the court to express unhappiness with his representation, the judge said. The prosecution offer of a new sentence of 40 years to life was originally made by former Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon and had been on the table since late last year. Gretz told Minora he sent the offer to Kenyon for his acceptance or rejection three times between January and March, but Kenyon never responded. After Minora cleared the courtroom and conducted a lengthy closed-door discussion with Kenyon and his attorneys, Gretz announced Kenyon was rejecting the offer. The judge set a Nov. 16 deadline for Gretz and Buttner to file a motion for “additional expertise” to supplement testimony presented by defense mitigation expert Deborah Doyle Belknap at a hearing in November. In her testimony, Belknap outlined multiple factors that she said weighed in favor of a lesser sentence for Kenyon. Contact the writer: dsingleton@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9132

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