Boise teen who murdered his mother will get chance to argue he shouldn’t die in prison

The Ada County judge who sentenced 17-year-old Ethan Windom for the brutal 2007 beating and stabbing death of his mother said at the time he was too dangerous to ever be allowed outside the walls of a prison.

Windom, now 28, will get the chance to argue that he shouldn’t have to die in prison, following a decision last summer by the Idaho Supreme Court. The high court ordered Windom be resentenced in light of two decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding sentencing of juveniles.

The state appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but last month that court denied a petition to hear the matter.

The resentencing hearing hasn’t been scheduled, but lawyers on both sides are scheduled to meet April 13 with District Judge Cheri Copsey, who originally sentenced Windom to life without parole.

On Jan. 24, 2007, Judy Windom, a special education teacher at Eagle High School, was struck repeatedly in the head with a club her son made by attaching weights to one end of a dumbbell. After his arms tired, Ethan Windom, then a junior at Borah High School, stabbed his mother in the throat, chest, abdomen and the head.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and Copsey gave him a life sentence.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court held in the Miller v. Alabama case that a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for a juvenile violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The court found that children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing.

Four years later, the Supreme Court ruled in Montgomery v. Louisiana that the ruling in Miller had to be applied retroactively. It affected up to 2,300 cases nationwide, with defendants entitled to be considered for parole or given another life sentence after considering factors such as immaturity and the failure to appreciate risks and consequences.

In the Montgomery case, the court held that a lifetime in prison is a disproportionate sentence for all but the rarest of children, those whose crimes reflect “irreparable corruption.”

While Windom was not sentenced to a mandatory life sentence, the Idaho Supreme Court found that the Montgomery ruling also applied to those given a life sentence without considering the “distinctive attributes of youth.”

“Before imposing sentence, the district court discussed at length Windom’s statements to classmates that he hated his mother; the brutal nature of the murder; his apparent lack of remorse when questioned by police; his fascination with serial killers; his diagnosis as a paranoid schizophrenic; and the need, if he is released into society, that he be treated by a competent mental health professional, that he take his medications, and that they actually work,” Idaho Supreme Court Justice Daniel Eismann wrote in the July 10, 2017, decision. “However, the sentencing hearing did not show that evidence was presented regarding the factors required by Miller. Those factors must be individualized for the juvenile being sentenced.”

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @JohnWSowell