A Kansas City man serving life in prison in the 1988 deaths of six Kansas City firefighters can seek a new sentencing hearing, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
Bryan Sheppard, who was 17 at the time, was one of five defendants convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the arson fire and explosion that killed the firefighters at a southeast Kansas City construction site.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Sheppard permission to seek the new hearing based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year on life sentences without parole for juvenile defendants, said Sheppard’s attorney, Cyndy Short.
Sheppard was the only defendant in the case who was a juvenile at the time of the incident.
The Supreme Court found that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
The Supreme Court ruling did not forbid life sentences for juveniles, but Monday’s 8th Circuit order does give Sheppard the opportunity to make his case for a lesser sentence, Short said.