An attorney for Antwaun Sims has filed an appeal of the March 21 decision that keeps intact the now 31-year-old’s sentence of life without parole, punishment he received nearly 13 years ago for the role he played in the January 2000 kidnapping and murder of 89-year-old Newton Grove resident Elleze Kennedy.
Carl G. Ivarrson Jr. mailed a copy of the Notice of Appeal to District Attorney Ernie Lee and assistant DA Robert Roupe Tuesday, stating his attention to continue to seek relief from the life sentence and now the order handed down by Superior Court Judge Jack Jenkins which denied Sims’ Motion for Appropriate Relief.
Ivarrson had sought relief from the sentence for his client based on a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision related to the age of a defendant at the time a crime was committed.
Sims was 17 years old when he and two of his friends went on a murderous joy ride that took them from Newton Grove to Harnett County and then to Cumberland, an alive, but severely beaten 89-year-old Kennedy stuffed in the trunk of the car they’d stolen from her earlier in the evening.
Kennedy eventually died, asphyxiated by smoke from a vehicle fire set just before the three abandoned the car they had used as her prison while they jaunted across multiple counties.
The initial motion was made before Jenkins on Feb. 20 in Onslow Superior Court, the same location where Sims was found guilty nearly 13 years ago. Jenkins took the motion under advisement, making his ruling last Friday
“This office is very pleased that Judge Jenkins ruled in the Antwaun Sims case that he shall remain incarcerated with a sentence of life without parole,” Lee wrote in a prepared statement released Tuesday afternoon. “Assistant District Attorney Bob Roupe and I spent much time preparing for the Motion for Appropriate Relief, and due to the horrific nature of this case, we believe that this defendant should be incarcerated for life without the possibility of parole.”
In February, Ivarsson, who also represented Sims during the 2001 murder trial, argued in favor of the Supreme Court decision, Miller v Alabama, which states that a mandatory life without parole sentence for anyone under the age of 18 at the time of the crime violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.”
In Miller, the high court ruled that a “judge or jury must have the opportunity to consider mitigating circumstances before imposing the harshest penalty for juveniles.”