MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a sentence that will keep an Alabama man in prison for the rest of his life following the horrific beating and murder of a female hitchhiker in 1994.
Kenneth Loggins had appealed his sentence on the grounds that since he was only 17 at the time of the crime and because the U.S. Supreme Court prohibits the death penalty for minors, it also means he can't receive the lesser alternative - life in prison without parole.
The appeals court rejected Loggins' argument saying the Constitution makes no such prohibition on the ability to incarcerate him for life.
Loggins was convicted for the 1994 kidnapping and murder of Vickie Deblieux, a hitchhiker who was trying to make it to her mother's home in Louisiana, when she met Loggins and several of his friends near Birmingham.
"This case is a horrifying example of a 17-year-old committing a crime that is so horrific and vile that justice calls for the severest penalty under law," said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. "In its order, the Court provides a thorough examination of this case, the defendant's claims, and how the law and court rulings stand to maintain a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Although execution is prohibited, it is necessary and appropriate that life without parole remain an option in certain cases."
In its ruling, the Court recounted the circumstances of Deblieux's murder after a friend dropped her off near Chattanooga. She made it as far as Jefferson County before her fateful encounter.
Loggins and three of his friends, drinking beer and using drugs, spotted Deblieux at an interstate exit. Court documents show that she was promised passage to Louisiana, but after getting in the car she was driven to a remote wooded area.
Loggins assured the young woman they were just picking up another car, but a vicious attack was forming.
Deblieux was beaten to death and her body was abused, but even in death the abuse continued. Loggins and others returned and further defiled and mutilate the young woman's body.
"The autopsy revealed that Deblieux's face was covered with lacerations, every bone in her face was fractured at least once, almost every bone in her skull was fractured, a tooth was missing, her left eye was collapsed, her right eye had hemorrhaged, there were two large incisions in her chest, her left lung had been removed, she had 180 post-mortem stab wounds, and all of her fingers and both thumbs had been cut off."
Loggins was originally convicted of capital murder committed during the course of a kidnapping and was ordered to be put to death. However, in 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of Roper v. Simmons that the Constitution prohibits States from imposing a death sentence on any murderer who was under age 18 at the time of the murder.
In response, Alabama state courts voided Loggins' death sentence, instead giving him the only other option under state law - life without the possibility of parole.
The Attorney General's office said Loggins issued extensive appeals, seeking to escape not only the death penalty, but to be freed from the sentence of life without parole and not face any charge of capital murder. Loggins has also attempted to use international treaties to win a more lenient sentence.
In reaching its conclusion to affirm Loggins' sentence, the Court explained: "So, while a juvenile who commits a murder cannot be executed, and can no longer be sentenced to death, it is not accurate to assert, as Loggins does, that he cannot be charged with a 'capital offense.' He can be charged with a capital offense, as Loggins was, and the penalty that Alabama law provides for juveniles who commit a capital offense is life without parole, and that is the sentence Loggins received after Roper, and it is the sentence he is now serving."
INFORMATION SOURCE: Alabama Attorney General's office