An Ottumwa man who was convicted of murder as a teenager will be granted parole, according to the Wapello County Attorney.
Michael Coffman was 16 when he shot and killed 15-year-old Jeremy Allen (pictured above) at Ottumwa High School on July 25, 1994. Later that year, Coffman was tried and found guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A Supreme Court ruling in 2012 said states and the federal government were required to consider the unique circumstances of each juvenile defendant in determining an individualized sentence. Furthermore, giving a life sentence to a juvenile without allowing the possibility of parole was ruled unconstitutional. A 2016 ruling ensured 2012 ruling was applied retroactively.
The Supreme Court decisions allowed Coffman’s sentence to be changed and in 2017, Coffman was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.
A parole hearing for Coffman scheduled for April 2020 was postponed due to the cornonavirus pandemic. On December 16th, the hearing was finally held.
Despite the protests of Jeremy Allen’s family as well as Wapello County Attorney Reuben Neff, Coffman was granted parole according to Neff.
“Unfortunately, it appears they [iowa board of parole] chose to ignore the family of the victim as well as my office’s request to deny parole. I am also frustrated that the parole board failed to notify my office or, to my knowledge the family of the victim before making this abhorrent decision.
There is no word on when Coffman will be released from prison but according to a Facebook post from Allen’s family, Coffman will go to a facility in Des Moines where he will be in a work-release program.
Neff submitted a letter to the parole board (available below) and said, “I believe it is important that the community know how much power the parole board possesses to cut sentences down while the prosecution and family of a victim possess literally no say in the matter.”
The Iowa Board of Parole did not return a request for more information as of time of publication.