MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man facing execution next week for his role in the 1997 slayings of four people has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, arguing it should weigh the fact that he was 19 at the time.
Attorneys for Michael Brandon Samra filed the request last week to stay the scheduled May 16 execution.
The court has barred executing anyone under 18 at the time of their crimes. Samra’s attorneys asked the court to weigh whether knowledge of brain development and evolving standards of decency merit extending that age to 21.
“This court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence should reflect the reality that a person’s neurological and psychological development does not suddenly stop on his 18th birthday,” his attorneys wrote last week.
Samra was convicted of helping friend Mark Duke kill Duke’s father, the father’s girlfriend Dedra Mims Hunt, and her two daughters, 6-year-old Chelisa Hunt and 7-year-old Chelsea Hunt in Alabama’s Shelby County.
Prosecutors said the Shelby County slayings happened after Duke became angry when his father wouldn’t let him use his truck. They said the teens executed a plan to kill Duke’s father and then killed the others to cover up his death.
Authorities said Mark Duke killed his father, Hunt and the 6-year-old girl and that Samra slit the throat of 7-year-old Chelsea at Duke’s direction while the girl pleaded for her life.
“The murders which were committed with a gun and kitchen knife were as brutal as they come,” lawyers for the state wrote in the motion to set an execution date.
Duke was 16 at the time of the slayings. Samra was 19. Both were sentenced to death. However, Duke’s death sentence was converted to life without parole after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled prisoners couldn’t be put to death for crimes that happened while they were younger than 18.
Samra’s attorney wrote in the court filing that Duke was the driving force behind the slayings and that Samra, who had borderline level intelligence, was the “minion.”
“Indeed, while Samra bore responsibility for the death of one person, his culpability paled in comparison to that of his co-defendant who plotted, planned, and killed three of the victims for revenge.” Samra’s attorneys wrote.