POCATELLO, Idaho — The Idaho Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction and life sentence of a Pocatello teen in an attack on a classmate the prosecutors said was partly inspired by the two students who opened fire at Columbine High School.
The high court on Tuesday did throw out Brian Draper's conviction on conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, saying jurors were given erroneous instructions on that charge.
Draper and another teen, Torey Adamcik, were convicted of stabbing to death fellow Pocatello High School student Cassie Jo Stoddart in 2006. All three were 16 at the time, and Draper and Adamcik were charged as adults.
Adamcik is separately appealing his murder conviction. He also was sentenced to life without parole.
Anna Stoddart, Cassie Jo's mother, was relieved that the life sentence without parole remained intact for Draper.
"I am just glad to know that's where he's going to be the rest of his life," Stoddart said. "If they did that for him, I am sure it will be the same" for Adamcik.
State appellate public defender Molly Huskey in April told the high court that a district judge had erred in sentencing Draper to the life term.
Huskey said her client's immaturity and poor judgment were partially attributable to his youth at the time of the crime, and that he deserved a chance for release. She also said the jury received erroneous instructions.
Evidence collected during the investigation, including videotapes made by the two Idaho teens, showed they had followed the exploits of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two teens in the Columbine massacre in Colorado, and wanted to emulate their heroes and win fame for themselves by spreading mayhem.
Stoddart, an acquaintance of Adamcik and Draper at school, was stabbed 29 times.
The Idaho Supreme Court ruling means Bannock County prosecutors will have to decide whether to re-try Draper on the one conviction the justices rejected.
"We will have to look at several issues and discuss this matter with Cassie Jo's family and determine what is in the best interest of the community," Chief Deputy Prosecutor Vic Pearson said.
Pearson was pleased the first-degree murder conviction and sentence were upheld.
"At this point, there is no chance Mr. Draper will be paroled in this matter," he said.
Justice Joel D. Horton wrote in the high court opinion that the jury instruction error was not harmless and therefore merited the conviction being overturned. He also said the murder conviction was legal, and the court acted appropriately when sending Draper to prison for life.
"Draper's fixed life sentence for first-degree murder does not constitute unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment and the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Draper to a fixed life sentence," Horton wrote.
Justices Jim Jones and Warren Jones agreed with the court majority about upholding the murder conviction but said they also would have left the conspiracy conviction intact.
Justice Warren Jones wrote that the planning of the murders, documented meticulously by the two boys with a video camera, was enough to merit keeping that conviction in place.
"In my opinion, no reasonable person could possibly watch the videotapes in evidence showing Draper and Adamcik discussing and planning the murder and not find a conspiracy," Warren Jones wrote.