Crime

Philipsburg man sentenced to life as teen gets resentencing hearing

John Nolley freed after 19 years in prison

John Nolley, who spent 19 years in prison on a 1998 murder conviction, was released because of new evidence and efforts by the Tarrant County Conviction Integrity Unit, the Innocence Project and Barry Scheck of New York and Fort Worth attorney Rea
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John Nolley, who spent 19 years in prison on a 1998 murder conviction, was released because of new evidence and efforts by the Tarrant County Conviction Integrity Unit, the Innocence Project and Barry Scheck of New York and Fort Worth attorney Rea

The son of a man murdered in 1987 stated in Clearfield County Court on Monday that he thinks his father’s killer has spent enough time in prison.

His father, David Smith, was hit with a shotgun blast from Timothy Hanson, of Philipsburg, when he arrived at the Hanson home on Dec. 24, 1987, according to court documents. Hanson, then 15 years old, was on the run from a juvenile detention center.

Hanson was found guilty of first-degree murder in June 1988 and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In 2012, a decision by the Supreme Court deemed juvenile sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole as cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. Once a procedure was designed for these cases prior cases in June, Hanson was one of three cases returned to Clearfield County Court for re-sentencing.

In order to receive a life without parole sentence, the commonwealth must now prove the defendant is unable to be rehabilitated.

According to the Supreme Court opinion, the guidelines for a first-degree murder committed by someone 15 to 18 years old is to serve a minimum of 35 years.

In a status conference scheduled for this case Monday morning, Dustin Smith, David Smith’s son, sat through several hours of testimony before he made a statement in favor of Hanson’s release.

“We do not wish to see him incarcerated any more,” he said, on behalf of the family. He added that they want Hanson to be able to contribute to society and believe “he deserves a second chance.”

Centre County Senior Judge David Grine, who’s specially presiding over Hanson’s case, had previously heard from three state Department of Corrections employees who have dealt with Hanson.

The Corrections employees detailed Hanson’s progress in prison and explained how he has become an asset to the law library. They described Hanson as thoughtful, calm, courteous and a big help to other inmates looking for legal help.

Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. questioned whether the witnesses were aware that Hanson has yet to take responsibility for his crime. Matthew Grimes, a counselor at the prison, noted that Hanson has maintained his innocence.

Although Grimes said he was in favor of Hanson being paroled because he feels he is unlikely to commit another crime, he said that part of any rehabilitation is being accountable for the crime.

The hearing will be continued until next year.

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