An inmate of New Hampshire State Prison, serving a sentence of life without parole for the murder of two Dartmouth College professors 11 years ago, may be seeking a reduced sentence based on a recent Supreme Court ruling that a mandatory life-without-parole sentence is unconstitutional when imposed on someone who was a juvenile at the time he committed the crime.
Robert Tulloch, 29, pled guilty in April 2002 to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of murder conspiracy in the stabbing deaths of Half and Susanne Zantop at the Zantops' home on January 7, 2001 — four months before Tulloch's 18th birthday. He was sentenced on each murder count to life in prison without the possibility of parole, in accordance with a New Hampshire statute that says: "A person convicted of a murder in the first degree shall be sentenced to life imprisonment and shall not be eligible for parole at any time." But on June 25 of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that a mandatory life sentence for a crime committed by a juvenile violates the Eighth Amendment ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." Tulloch has since contacted the New Hampshire Public Defender's office for advice on whether he might seek relief under the Miller ruling, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported Tuesday.
"I believe that Mr. Tulloch may be entitled to some relief under the Miller decision since he was under the age of eighteen at the time of the murders and since he was sentenced to life without parole," public defender Richard Guerriero said in a letter he filed Monday with the Grafton Country Superior Court, where Tulloch was sentenced 10 years ago. Whether the Miller ruling might be applied retroactively is unclear, though it may have an effect on the case of Steven Spader, whose appeal of his conviction and sentence is now before the Supreme Court of New Hampshire. Spader was sentenced to life without parole for the murder of a Mount Vernon woman and the maiming of her daughter in 2009, when he was 17. Attorneys for Spader told the Concord Monitor in June that they were reviewing the Miller decision to see if it might be the basis for a reconsideration of Spader's sentence. The Monitor noted that there were at least two other convicts serving life sentences in New Hampshire for murders they committed when they were 17, one for killing his parents and the other for killing a restaurant owner.
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Photo: Robert Tulloch is escorted into court on Feb. 20, 2001, in New Castle, Ind., by Henry County Sheriff Kim Cronk, left, and Major Jay Davis, right, for an extradition hearing: AP Images