Inmate sentenced as juvenile gets 30-60 years

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan inmate who was sentenced decades ago to life without parole as a juvenile may have a chance at freedom after being resentenced last week.

Jose Burgos, 43, was resentenced last week to 30 to 60 years, the Detroit News reported. The resentencing follows the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that life sentences for juvenile offenders constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Michigan has more than 320 inmates who were given life sentences as juveniles, said Holly Kramer, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Corrections.

Burgos was convicted in 1992 for killing Omar Kaji and wounding his twin brother, Ayman Kaji, whose injuries left him a paraplegic. Burgos was 16 when he shot the brothers during a bungled drug deal in Detroit.

Judge Ulysses Boykin said Burgos became a “changed person” in prison with few disciplinary issues on his record.

“There is a possibility that people can be redeemed or reprogrammed,” Boykin said. He said he believes Burgos is “headed in a positive direction.”

Burgos has also been mentoring at-risk inmates and participating in other prison programs, according to Michael Dezsi, his attorney.

Burgos acknowledged the Kaji family and the lives he “destroyed and took.”

“The victims have never been forgotten,” Burgos said. “I’ll never stop trying to repair the damage I did.”

Dezsi believes his client is eligible for parole immediately. Burgos will have to seek approval for release from the Michigan Parole Board, he said.

Ayman Kaji told the courtroom during last Thursday’s hearing that he wouldn’t oppose Burgos’ release.

He said that if “Burgos can do good out in society, I’m all for it.”