Attorney: Langerts killer deserves new sentencing hearing
Whether convicted murderer David Biro has a hope of ever walking out of prison as a free man hinges in part on whether he is eligible for a new sentencing hearing for his third murder victim, the unborn child of Nancy and Richard Langert.
The notorious 1990 thrill killing of the Langerts and the 3-month-old fetus was back in Cook County criminal court Thursday for arguments on that point.
Biro is entitled to new sentencing hearings for the murders of Richard, 28, and Nancy, 25, as a result of a 2014 Illinois Supreme Court ruling making retroactive the U.S. Supreme Court's decision overturning mandatory life sentences for juvenile killers. He could be sentenced again to life or he could receive a lesser sentence.
Biro was a 16-year-old New Trier High School student when he broke into the couple's Winnetka townhouse, waited for them to come home, forced them into the basement and shot them both. Nancy Langert survived about 15 minutes, said authorities, long enough to write in her own blood a message of love to her family.
After his 1991 conviction, Biro was sentenced to life without parole, which at the time was the mandatory sentence for a juvenile convicted of murder.
Biro also was sentenced to life in prison for the intentional homicide of an unborn child. That sentence, which came at the judge's discretion, should also be the subject of a new sentencing hearing, argued defense attorney Thomas Brandstrader during the hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago.
To do otherwise "is to apply the (Supreme Court) ruling and ignore the reason behind it," he said.
Quoting the court's decision equating a life sentence for a juvenile to a death sentence for an adult, Brandstrader insisted imposing a discretionary life sentence on a juvenile is unconstitutional just as a mandatory life sentence is.
Biro's attorneys at the time offered no mitigation testimony, believing the mandatory sentence precluded them doing so, Brandstrader said. As a result, the sentencing judge did not have a chance to consider Biro's background or the circumstances of the crime.
Biro, who is incarcerated at the Pontiac Correctional Center, was not in court for the hearing.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional. But the court left open the possibility that juveniles convicted of murder could still receive a life sentence if the judge deemed it appropriate.
Cook County assistant state's attorney Alan Spellberg argued the ruling does not allow Biro a resentencing hearing on the discretionary life sentence he received for killing the fetus.
"It is valid, constitutional and is not subject to post-conviction relief," Spellberg said, claiming the court's decision in Alabama addressed the constitutionality of mandatory life sentences only.
"Based on the brutal nature of this case ... the cold and calculating nature ... that natural life sentence was appropriate," Spellberg said.
Cook County Judge Mary Margaret Brosnahan will announce her ruling Dec. 3.