September 16, 2014

Former AuGres resident gets double-murder conviction overturned

Could get new trial if U.S. Court of Appeals upholds decision

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
Posted

CINCINNATI — Former AuGres resident TJ Tremble, convicted of a double-murder when he was 14, saw his life-without-parole sentence overturned in a U.S. District Court decision in 2010. Now two different court cases could see his sentence reduced, or a new trial.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette argued March 8 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District, located in Cincinnati, to have the 2010 decision reversed, and is awaiting a decision.

Tremble, now 28, was convicted of shooting and killing Peter and Ruth Stanley of AuGres while they slept in 1997, before stealing their car and some cash. According to Arenac County Sheriff James Mosciski, Tremble confessed to the crime, and evidence pointed to him committing the acts.

“My opinion on it is, if you commit the crime, you pay the time,” Mosciscki said. “He killed two innocent people, stole a car, the evidence showed he stole the car, he stole some money from the house, and confessed to the crime.”

Tremble’s lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, argued at the U.S. District Court in Detroit that Tremble’s request for counsel was not honored, so his confession, obtained after six hours of being handcuffed, could not be valid. This was the argument that U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman accepted in 2010, overturning Tremble’s conviction and ordering a new trial.

The Stanleys’ son, Dennis, said he wants to see the sentence reinstated by the appeals court.

“He had plenty of time to change his mind that night,” Dennis said. “He rode his bike for three miles, carrying a .22-caliber rifle in the dark… he knew what he wanted to do.”

Dennis added that Tremble had been in trouble with the law before, and was on probation when the incident occurred. He believes Tremble lied to his lawyer to get representation by giving a biased account of the police and trial proceedings.

A broader decision is being discussed in Washington, D.C., however, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on March 20 on two different cases that could affect Tremble’s life sentence.

The two cases before the Supreme Court, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, saw Tremble’s lawyer Stevenson argue that it is unconstitutional to try juveniles as adults, let alone sentence them as adults.

Stevenson argued before the Supreme Court justices over where to draw a line for trying a minor as an adult, and whether or not a minor should be sentenced to life without parole, as Tremble was.

Mosciski said he did not believe former Arenac County Prosecutor Jack Scully would have tried Tremble as an adult if he did not believe it was constitutional.

Dennis Stanley said he has no sympathy for young people who commit crimes.

The Supreme Court should have a decision by the end of June on whether or not it is constitutional to try and sentence minors as adults, which, if overturned, could force a new trial for Tremble. Schuette’s office did not have a time frame for the Court of Appeal’s decision.

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