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1st of 4 life sentence challenges is heard in Westmoreland County

| Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Bryan Chambers won't see any change to his life prison sentence anytime soon.

Chambers, a former New Kensington resident, was just 17 when he was arrested for the June 14, 2001, shooting and beating death of 48-year-old Larry Dunmire of Kiskiminetas Township, Armstrong County.

Two years later, Chambers was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to serve life in prison without parole.

Chambers, who is now 27, wants a new sentence after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year ruled that mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional.

The court ruled that young offenders are entitled to a hearing before such a sentence is automatically imposed.

Chambers was in court Monday to ask Westmoreland County Judge John Blahovec for a new sentence.

“The question is now, what's the relief?” said defense attorney Jerome Tierney.

Chambers is the first of four Westmoreland County cases impacted by the Supreme Court ruling to come before a Common Pleas judge.

District Attorney John Peck said Monday that it could be “years” before the state Supreme Court rules on how cases involving juvenile lifers should be handled. It is currently considering whether previously sentenced juveniles are affected by the appeals court ruling.

Peck predicted that ruling would not alter the life sentences imposed on Chambers and the other juveniles.

“You don't have any alternative to give him anything other than a life sentence,” Peck said.

Blahovec said Chambers can ask again for a change to his sentence should state legislators pass a new law regarding juvenile offenders or after the state Supreme Court makes a ruling.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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