May 20, 2011 / 5:50 PM / 8 years ago

Life sentence for 14-year-old killer confirmed by court

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday rejected challenges to a life-without-parole sentence for a man who at age 14 chased down, beat and then tossed a teenager to his death off a hospital parking ramp.

Omer Ninham argued his sentence for killing Zong Vang, 13, in 1998 violated U.S. and Wisconsin constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment. He called the sentence “unduly harsh and excessive” and sought the possibility of parole.

“There is no question that Ninham’s punishment is severe, but it is not disproportionately so,” Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler wrote for the court. “The manner in which Ninham took Vang’s life was horrific and senseless.”

Ninham and four other teens accosted Vang near dusk in September 1998 while he toted a bag of tomatoes home from a grocery store in Green Bay, the opinion states. They taunted Vang, snatching his bicycle and threw the bag to the ground.

Ninham punched Vang and the group chased him to the top of a five-story hospital parking ramp nearby where he was punched, pinned to a wall and then Ninham and another teen, Richard Crapeau, swung Vang back-and-forth over the ramp’s wall before letting go.

Vang landed on his head and trunk on the paved exit lane below and could not be revived.

Crapeau, who was 13 at the time of Vang’s murder, was also convicted of murder and sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 50 years.

Pre-sentence reports found Ninham’s family to be extremely dysfunctional with substance abuse and domestic violence and that the teen himself was a “serious substance abuser.”

“The terror experienced by the victim and the hurt suffered by his family and friends is, in a word, unimaginable,” Ziegler wrote.

Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune

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