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September 8, 2011
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Luther Strange
Joy Patterson (334) 242-7491
Alabama Attorney General
Suzanne Webb (334) 242-7351
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(MONTGOMERY) – Attorney General Luther Strange said he is pleased by
a federal court ruling yesterday that makes it clear that the Constitution does
not prohibit Alabama courts from convicting defendants of capital murder and
sentencing them to life imprisonment without parole even though they were 17

years old at the time of the murder. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected
arguments by Kenneth Loggins that a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the
death penalty for 17-year-olds also meant he could not receive the lesser
alternative sentence of life without parole for capital murder. The Court
affirmed that even though Loggins may not be executed for the 1994 murder
and kidnapping of Vickie Deblieux in Jefferson County, the only alternative
sentence for his capital murder conviction–life without parole–was properly

“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 Attorney General 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 recounts the tragic circumstances of the young
woman’s murder after a friend dropped her off near Chattanooga and she was
hitchhiking to reach her mother’s home in West Monroe, La. Deblieux “had
telephoned her mother to let her know that she was coming. Deblieux made it
as far south as Jefferson County, Alabama. Unfortunately for her, Kenneth
Loggins and three of his friends were also out that night, drinking beer and
using drugs. They spotted Deblieux at an interstate exit in Jefferson County.
Promising to take her to Louisiana, Loggins and the other men lured Deblieux
into their car and then drove her to a remote wooded area on the pretense of
picking up another vehicle. When she protested being taken there, Loggins
assured her everything was okay. Of course it wasn’t.”

The Court’s opinion tells of the vicious attack that followed, in which
Deblieux was beaten to death and her body was subsequently abused. After
leaving the scene, Loggins and others returned to further defile 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,
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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 convicted for the capital offense of murder committed during
the course of a kidnapping, and he originally was sentenced to death. However,
the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2005 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.
Alabama state courts subsequently acted to void Loggins’ death sentence. He
instead was sentenced to the only alternative sentence under Alabama law for
capital murder, which is life imprisonment without parole. Loggins responded
with extensive appeals in which he sought 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.

The State of Alabama argued that what the Roper case means is that “a
juvenile can still be charged with capital murder” and that “the only difference
here is death is no longer an available punishment; however, life without parole
is.” In fact, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals took note of the fact that the
defendant in Roper, though found not to be eligible for the death sentence
because he was 17 at the time of the crime, was nevertheless resentenced to
life imprisonment without parole, and the Supreme Court did not say that the
new sentence was unconstitutional.

In other arguments, Loggins attempted to use international treaties to
win a more lenient sentence. In its ruling yesterday, the Court responded that,
“A murder, especially one as vicious as the one in this case, is an exceptional
circumstance justifying treatment of the juvenile as an adult” and emphatically
noted that “there is no Supreme Court decision holding that juvenile murderers
cannot be sentenced to life without parole because of any treaty or for any
other reason.”

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.”

Attorney General Strange commended those who represented the State’s
efforts to uphold Loggins’ sentence, noting in particular Assistant Attorney
General John Davis of his Criminal Appeals Division and Solicitor General
John Neiman.