Inmate gets new hearing 32 years after murder conviction

February 15, 2019

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court has ordered the resentencing of a man who, at age 15, was convicted in the sexual assault and murder of a 4-year-old girl and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.

The court granted Christopher Segerstrom a new hearing Thursday, The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Segerstrom was convicted in 1987 of capital murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in the killing of Barbara Thompson a year earlier. Investigators said the girl was sexually assaulted, hit on the head with a rock and suffocated in a wooded area near the University of Arkansas.

But since his conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Arkansas Supreme Court have ruled that juveniles can’t be sentenced to life in prison without parole. State law was revised to allow a sentence of life with the possibility of parole after 30 years to comply with the rulings. Those sentenced as a juvenile to life without parole had to be resentenced.

A judge resentenced Segerstrom in 2017 without a sentencing hearing, ruling that the changes to federal and state law apply retroactively. Segerstrom was credited for time served and was found eligible to seek parole, a request that was later denied.

The high court ruled Thursday that the changes don’t apply retroactively in Segerstrom’s case. He can be resentenced to from 10 to 40 years, or life.

Justice Shawn Womack dissented, saying he believed the law should be applied retroactively.

Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Durrett said the decision wasn’t surprising because of other recent cases where those convicted of murder as juveniles were paroled.

Durrett said he believes Segerstrom can’t be rehabilitated and is dangerous.


Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com