Pearl High School shooter Luke Woodham wants parole

Pearl High School shooter Luke Woodham wants parole

Pearl High School shooter Luke Woodham, who killed three in 1997, is pushing for parole eligibility.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that those sentenced as teenagers to mandatory life sentences for murder must be given a chance to argue they should be released from prison.

On Oct. 1, 1997, the 16-year-old Woodham stabbed and bludgeoned his mother to death and then entered Pearl High School with a .30/30 rifle. He shot nine classmates, killing two of them.

The school attack, one of the worst in U.S. history at the time, helped inspire other school shootings across the country, culminating in 1999 with the shootings in Colorado at Columbine High School, where students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 and injured 21 others.

In his 1998 trial, the jury rejected Woodham's insanity defense, convicting him of the three murders.

“I am sorry for the people I killed and hurt,” Woodham told Circuit Judge Samac Richardson. “The reason you see no tears anymore is because I’ve been forgiven by God. If they could have given the death penalty in this case, I deserve it.”

Under Mississippi law, those convicted of murder receive a life sentence, but are eligible for parole.

The judge sentenced Woodham to three consecutive life sentences. The judge also gave seven 20-year sentences for attempted murder.

Prosecutors were unable to prosecute Woodham for capital murder under the law at that time. Lawmakers have since changed the law, making it possible to bring the death penalty against anyone who kills on educational property.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in January built on the 2012 decision that threw out mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles.

Woodham has no parole eligibility date at this time.

In keeping with the 2012 decision, the state Supreme Court ordered a hearing before Richardson on Woodham’s claim.

His attorney, Tom Fortner, wrote that his client’s 140-year sentence for aggravated assault is the equivalent of a life without parole sentence.

Fortner wrote that justices have concluded that such sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional.

He suggested that the 140-year sentence be allowed to run concurrently with the life sentences.

“Mr. Woodham will still be serving life sentences and thus will remain in prison unless and until the Parole Board decides that he has earned the privilege of release on parole,” he wrote.

This is not the first time Woodham has pushed for his freedom.

In 2011, he asked then-Gov. Haley Barbour for clemency. Barbour rejected the request.

Seven years earlier, the state Supreme Court denied Woodham's request for post-conviction relief.