Minneapolis Seward Market killer resentenced but won't be free

Mahdi Hassan Ali
This undated image provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff shows Mahdi Hassan Ali, who along with another teenager was charged with three counts of murder in the killings at Seward Market and Halal Meat.
Hennepin County Sheriff | AP file photo

A Minnesota man who shot three people to death in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis in 2010 was resentenced Wednesday on one of those homicide convictions.

Mahdi Hassan Ali, 23, is serving time at Oak Park Heights in Stillwater for killing three men at the Seward Market in south Minneapolis in 2010 during a botched robbery. Ali was 17 at the time of the crime, which is why a United States Supreme Court decision made him eligible for resentencing.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill on Wednesday swapped out a life sentence without parole for a life sentence with a possibility of parole. The change will mean little for Ali, who will serve the new sentence consecutively along with two other life sentences.

Prosecutors didn't oppose the change because it still means Ali won't even be eligible for parole until he's well over 100 years old.

The resentencing stems from a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Miller v. Alabama, that barred states from imposing mandatory life sentences without parole for crimes committed by juveniles.

Ali's case is unique and probably doesn't have many implications for others serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed while they were juveniles, said Perry Moriearty, associate professor of law at the University of Minnesota and co-director of the Child Advocacy and Juvenile Justice Clinic.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections says there are only eight inmates in prison, including Ali, who were convicted to life in prison without parole for crimes committed while they were juveniles. Most were sentenced long before the U.S. Supreme Court decision and aren't entitled to resentencing under a ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Moriearty said there are about 2,500 inmates in that situation nationwide. She and others expected that the U.S. Supreme Court decision would lead to more immediate and far-reaching changes than it's brought.

"Most people have assumed that people in these various states would be looking at new sentences, probably still pretty darn long sentences, but not death in prison," Moriearty said. "But what has happened instead is there have been all these procedural complications that are a product of a whole series of laws out there that make it really hard to get post-conviction relief in this country."

Minnesota is one of six states where courts have ruled that Miller v. Alabama doesn't apply retroactively to prisoners sentenced before the decision in 2012. Moriearty said 12 states have ruled that it does. But another case, Montgomery v. Louisiana is before the U.S. Supreme Court now, and could lead to a nationwide standard on applying the Miller decision.

Although previous attempts at the Minnesota Legislature have failed to adjust the state's "heinous crimes" law requiring mandatory sentences for some crimes even for juveniles, supporters expect another proposal to be introduced in the coming session.