Juan Carlos Nunez, 38, was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole after he shot and killed Scott Anderson, a 22-year-old kitchen manager at Pereddies Restaurant and Deli in Holland, on Sept. 17, 1997.
Nunez was 16 at the time of the botched armed robbery attempt. Since then, he’s spent more time in prison than outside of it, following his mandatory life sentence for first-degree murder.
But after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that mandatory life sentences were cruel and unusual punishment when the offenders were juveniles, Nunez will be back in an Ottawa County court April 23-25, fighting for a chance at a shorter sentence during a three-day juvenile resentencing hearing.
Nunez may be resentenced to life in prison, but the Supreme Court’s ruling makes it possible for that sentence to be shortened by a judge, to somewhere between 25 and 60 years in prison, with the possibility of parole.
More than 300 juvenile lifers in Michigan are getting that same chance at a shorter sentence.
Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz told The Sentinel in 2016 that both he and the Anderson family are seeking to maintain Nunez’s life sentence. Frantz originally prosecuted the case in the late 1990s, but Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Lee Fisher will be handling the April hearing. Ottawa County Circuit Judge Jon Hulsing will determine Nunez’s new sentence.
“I know I did something horrible — I know I did,” Nunez told The Sentinel in an interview from prison April 25, 2016. “By no means am I saying I don’t deserve punishment. If someone did that to me, I wouldn’t want to see just 25 years. But not a whole life.”
Nunez, who was sentenced when he was 17, has now spent nearly 21 years in prison, meaning he’s spent more of his life in prison than out.
Frantz said Nunez’s previous gang ties and his actions while in prison are factors when considering whether Nunez should get the possibility of parole. While in the Michigan Department of Corrections’ custody, Nunez has had 16 “major misconduct charges,” according to Frantz, including the commission of assault on other inmates and the possession of handmade lethal weapons.