Moral Low Ground

US Government

Mississippi Man Scotty B. Lyles Sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole for Writing $106 Bad Check

December 25, 2012 by Brett Wilkins in Courts, Crime & Punishment with 1 Comment
Scotty Lyles: Cruel and unusual punishment?

Scotty Lyles: Cruel and unusual punishment?

A Mississippi man sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for writing a bad check in the amount of $106 has been given until the end of next month to file a post-conviction petition challenging his sentence.

Scotty B. Lyles, 45, was sentenced in Oktibbeha County in 2005 after he bought $106 worth of liquor with a bad check. Lyles had argued that the life sentence was too harsh for such a minor offense, but in 2007 the 10-member Mississippi Court of Appeals upheld the sentence. The court pointed to Lyles’ 13 prior criminal convictions as proof that he deserved to be locked up forever.

“This gentleman has the most felony convictions out of anyone that I have dealt with,” Oktibbeha County Circuit Judge Jim Kitchens said of Lyles. “The court finds that this sentence is not disproportionate because of Mr. Lyles’ apparently seeming inability to conform his behavior to the requirements that … society expects of him.”

Lyles’ criminal record consists mostly of thefts, burglaries and robberies committed mostly in the Chicago area.

A year after Lyles was convicted of false pretense for for writing a bad check to buy alcohol at Starkville Discount Liquor Store, he was also sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for robbing a store clerk at knifepoint.

In his current request to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which imposed a January 31 deadline for filing a post-conviction petition, Lyles argues that his rights have been violated by prosecutors who amended his indictment post-trial to charge him as a habitual offender.

Lyles’ case is similar to that of Jerry Helm, a habitual felon who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for writing a bad check for $100 in 1979. The US Supreme Court, in Solem v. Helm, ruled that Helm’s sentence was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, which bars “cruel and unusual punishment.”

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One Comment

  1. DavidDecember 26, 2012 at 11:37 amReply


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