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NH Supreme Court upholds resentencing for 2 given life in prison for murder as teens

Associated Press
Published: 4/20/2021 10:21:33 PM
Modified: 4/20/2021 10:21:31 PM

CONCORD — The sentences of two men convicted of murder as teenagers decades ago were upheld Tuesday by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which disagreed with their lawyers that the terms amount to life imprisonment.

Robert Dingman, 42, was 17 when he and his 14-year-old brother fatally shot their parents in 1996 in their Rochester home. He was sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole. His brother, Jeffrey Dingman, testified against him, got 30 years to life in a plea deal, and was released in 2013.

Eduardo Lopez Jr., 47, was convicted of fatally shooting Robert Goyette in 1991 while trying to steal his car in Nashua. He, too, was 17 when the crime happened and received the same mandatory life sentence as Robert Dingman.

Both Lopez and Robert Dingman were resentenced in 2018 following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2012 that found it unconstitutional to sentence juvenile offenders to mandatory life imprisonment without parole.

Dingman was resentenced to 40 years to life in prison. Lopez was resentenced to 45 years to life. The state had asked for longer sentences.

Dingman becomes eligible for parole at age 57, and Lopez at age 62, both in 2036.

Lawyers for both men had argued that the sentences amounted to de facto life sentences without parole and said they would be deprived of “a realistic opportunity to build a meaningful post-prison life.”

The defense lawyers said the judges were wrong in using life expectancy tables “based on the general American population, rather than information focused on the life expectancy of long-term prisoners,” in arriving at their decisions.

In Lopez’s case, defense lawyers argued that the judge overestimated his life expectancy. The judge found that if Lopez lives until 62, his life expectancy would be at least an additional 20 years.

“An additional 20 years of life after release from prison does not constitute ‘only a few years before his actuarily projected death,’ ” the state Supreme Court wrote.

A bill introduced in the House this year would no longer allow juveniles convicted of homicide to be sentenced to life without parole, bringing New Hampshire in line with more than 20 states and Washington, D.C., that have enacted similar legislation. It remains in a House committee.

Lopez and Dingman were among five people in New Hampshire convicted of murder as a teen and originally sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole.

Steven Spader was resentenced to life without parole after refusing to attend his hearing or authorize his attorneys to argue for a lesser sentence. Michael Soto was later resentenced to 25 years to life.

The case involving Robert Tulloch, a Chelsea man who was one of two teens who killed Dartmouth professors Half and Susanne Zantop at their Etna home in January 2001, is on hold.

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