Discretionary life sentence stands for juvenile killer

  • David Biro

    David Biro

  • Judge Mary Margaret Brosnahan listens to legal arguments at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago during a Nov. 5 hearing on the resentencing for felon David Biro.

    Judge Mary Margaret Brosnahan listens to legal arguments at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago during a Nov. 5 hearing on the resentencing for felon David Biro. John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

 
 
Updated 12/3/2015 8:02 PM

The life sentence convicted killer David Biro received for the 1990 death of a Winnetka couple's fetus will stand, a Cook County judge ruled Thursday.

In one of the suburbs' most heinous crimes, Biro -- then a 16-year-old New Trier High School student -- murdered Nancy Langert, 25, her husband Richard, 29, and the couple's fetus, which was in the first trimester. Biro was sentenced to two mandatory life sentences and a discretionary life sentence for the fetus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

At the time, a life sentence meant just that: lifetime incarceration without possibility of parole. However, in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Miller v. Alabama, ruled mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders were unconstitutional. The ruling does not prohibit life sentences for juvenile killers, only their mandatory imposition. In 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court made the high court's ruling retroactive, making about 80 inmates sentenced to life terms for murders they committed as juveniles eligible for new sentencing hearings.

Biro's attorney Thomas Brandstrader argued last month the Supreme Court ruling extended to the discretionary life sentence. Cook County Judge Mary Margaret Brosnahan disagreed.

Reading from her 18-page opinion, Brosnahan quoted the Illinois Supreme Court, which held "Miller does not invalidate the penalty of natural life without parole for multiple murders, only its mandatory imposition on juveniles."

Quoting from the criminal trial transcript, Brosnahan noted that the original trial judge -- in imposing his sentence -- considered Biro's youth.

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"There was nothing provocative in the victims or what happened, what the victims did. It was planned, coolly planned, and it was executed, the plan was executed in a coldblooded manner," said Brosnahan, reading from the sentencing transcript, which indicated the judge believed the "exceptionally brutal" nature of the thrill killings outweighed other considerations.

Brosnahan pointed out in her written opinion that Biro received the discretionary life sentence "following a full and fair sentencing hearing during which the trial court ... exercised its discretion to impose the most severe sentence possible" after "meaningfully considering" Biro's age.

Resentencing hearings for Biro's other two life sentences have not been scheduled.

Brandstrader indicated he would appeal Brosnahan's ruling. He declined to comment on her decision.

Joyce Bishop, Nancy Langert's mother, expressed satisfaction with the judge's ruling.

"I'm very pleased," she said. "It is what we all hoped for and expected."

"He's right where he should be," she said of Biro.

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