LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas man who killed a 12-year-old girl while robbing a grocery store more than 20 years ago will be sentenced a third time after his attorneys argued that prosecutors tainted his previous sentencing, the state’s highest court ruled.
Chad Kitchell killed Robin Richardson and wounded her mother, Hazel Richardson, when he robbed a grocery store in Saline County in 1991. Kitchell, who was 17 at the time of killing, pleaded guilty to capital murder and attempted murder and was sentenced to life in prison. That initial sentencing was vacated because a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibited sentencing minors to life in prison without offering parole.
Kitchell, now 45, was resentenced in 2018 to life in prison with eligibility for parole after serving 30 years. But he appealed his second sentencing to the Arkansas Supreme Court, arguing that prosecutors shouldn’t have mentioned his prior life sentence to the jury.
On Thursday, the high court agreed that it was prejudicial for the jury to hear about Kitchell’s initial sentence and granted him a third sentencing in a 6-1 decision, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Friday.
He faces a minimum of 10 years and up to 40 years or life in prison. The ruling didn’t overturn his previous convictions, and he remains at the Tucker Maximum Security Unit in Jefferson County.
“We are mindful of how difficult another resentencing hearing will be for the victim’s family,” wrote Justice Courtney Hudson in the majority ruling. “However, the introduction of evidence during a sentencing trial must be governed by our rules of admissibility and exclusion for the proceeding to pass constitutional muster.”
Meanwhile, the dissenting Justice Shawn Womack wrote that any prejudice Kitchell received at his second sentencing hearing was inadequate to support overturning his sentence.