Sentencing hearing underway for Flint teen convicted in 2010 - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Sentencing hearing underway for Flint teen convicted in 2010 murder of Merlyne Wray

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(03/05/14) - A sentencing hearing has started for a Flint teenager convicted in the 2010 murder of a 73-year-old woman.

It's required after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling declared mandatory life in prison without parole sentences for juveniles unconstitutional.

Mark Jones, now 17, was just 14 when he shot and killed Merlyne Wray inside her south side home. He was convicted of first-degree felony murder, and other crimes, in November. 

We heard about his life, Wednesday - the years leading up to when hers was taken.

"He has an extensive history, discipline history, in our district," says Ernest Steward, Acting Director of Pupil Personnel Service for Flint Community Schools. "Behavior that comes to mind is loitering, skipping, fighting, aggressive behavior towards students and staff."

The point of this hearing is for prosecutors to try to convince the judge Jones deserves life in prison without parole. Defense attorneys will try to show he can be rehabilitated and doesn't deserved to spend the rest of years behind bars.

Genesee County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Vikki Bayeh Haley started with his school life, Wednesday, March 5.

Steward testified Jones moved to different buildings 10 times, had poor attendance, pushed a teacher when he was in third grade and was often suspended.

"There were recommendations made by the administrative building to expel him for up to 180 days," Steward says.

Two prior charges in juvenile court were detailed.

A University of Michigan-Flint Detective Sergeant also testified he suspected Jones in a purse snatching on campus, but charges weren't sought because he'd already been arrested for Wray's murder.

The teen's time at the county's juvenile facility, the Genesee Valley Regional Center, was addressed too.

Derek Brown, who worked there, as a supervisor on the wing where Jones was, says his behavior varied.

"Some days he didn't do well, other days he showed leadership," Brown says.

Jones defense attorneys, Major White and Jessica Mainprize-Hajek, called his father, also named Mark Jones, to testify.

He says he's in jail now on a family court case.

"A lot of things could have been prevented," Jones Sr. says.

His son was born while he was in federal prison. He missed the first, nearly 13 years of his life. He lived with his son and son's mother when he got out of prison, but says he didn't do any disciplining.

"It was like, you know, he was already, just too far gone and me disciplining him wouldn't helped too much," he says.

Testimony continues Thursday.

This is only the second hearing like this held in Genesee County - both by the same judge, Circuit Court Judge Archie Hayman.

Juwan Wickware was the first teen in Genesee County, and likely Michigan, to have this kind of sentencing hearing following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Hayman sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation updating sentencing procedures for juvenile defendants, bringing Michigan in line with national standards.

It establishes a revised sentencing process for pending and future cases involving juveniles convicted of first degree murder, felony murder or those who are repeat offender in certain sexual assault cases.

Juveniles can no longer automatically be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

"These changes will ensure Michiganders of all ages receive a fair trial while aligning our state justice system with federal law," Snyder said.

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