Riley Briones Jr. chopped his long, braided hair as a symbolic death of his former self shortly after arriving in federal prison.

Briones steered the getaway car in a theft that turned tragic in the Salt River-Pima Maricopa Indian Community near Phoenix in 1994 as a leader of a violent gang. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.

His advocates contend in their current campaign to get the now 45-year-sentence old’s reduced that he has been baptized a Christian, preaches to other criminals who call him Brother Briones, received his GED and has a spotless disciplinary record while in prison.

Easha Anand, his attorney, said, “He’s clearly on the side of the line where he should be walking free.”

Briones Jr. and the Supreme Court

With a 2012 ruling, the United States Supreme Court paved the way for this possibility, declaring that only the most heinous, irredeemable juvenile offenders should be sentenced to life in prison. Most of the 39 defendants in federal cases who got that sentence have received a reprieve and are serving much less years in prison during the last decade.

Riley Briones Jr. Wife
Carmen Briones holds up photos of her husband, Riley Briones Jr., who is serving life in prison, on Feb. 22, 2022, in Anthem, Ariz. Riley Briones’ attorneys are asking a federal appeals court for another chance to argue his sentence should be cut short based on improvements he’s made behind bars since being convicted in the 1994 death of Brian Patrick Lindsay when Briones was 17. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

Briones is among those who have had their life sentences upheld. Briones’ lawyers have petitioned the whole 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to give him another chance to reduce the sentence.

At the same time, more than 60 legal professionals and intellectuals have petitioned the federal government to set a 30-year maximum sentence for juvenile criminals, form a committee to review future life sentences and reconsider its stance in Briones’ case.

The newest appeal in Briones’ case has a deadline of May for prosecutors to answer. They’ve previously acknowledged that he’s improved in prison and expressed remorse, but they argue that he’s not deserving of an early release because he downplayed his role in the “Eastside Crips Rolling 30s” and the crimes that terrorized Salt River during a gang war on Native American reservations in the 1990s.

The Crime

Federal Prison

Briones was sentenced to jail in 1997 after being found guilty of the murder of Brian Patrick Lindsay, a Northern Arizona University student who was home for the summer and working a solitary shift at a Subway.

On May 15, 1994, Briones drove four other gang members to the restaurant and waited outside. Lindsay was preparing sandwiches when one of the gang members went outside to speak with Briones, then returned inside and shot her in the face. As Lindsay lay on the floor, the shooter continued to fire rounds at him.

The group took the lunch as well as a bank bag containing $100.

Prosecutors said the murder was the most serious of the violent murders Briones assisted in planning and carrying out on the tribe about 15 miles (24 kilometers) outside of Phoenix. Others, they alleged, demonstrated a “murderous, unrepentant, and unapologetic attitude,” such as drive-by killings and arson attacks on rival gang members’ homes.
Briones was also found guilty of arson, witness interference, and assault with a dangerous weapon. Three of his co-defendants were sentenced to life in prison in Lindsay’s killing. One cooperated with the police and received a reduced sentence.

Federal Prison

After the Supreme Court’s judgment in Miller v. Alabama in 2012, Briones was entitled to a resentence since he was a minor at the time of the crime. It was one of a string of rulings in which the court determined that minors should be handled differently than adults, owing to their lack of maturity.

Back to Court

Briones’ case has bounced around the courts as laws on juvenile offenders have altered. Briones, who is in the San Carlos Apache and Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribes, was found guilty by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit.

Us Penitentiary

Lindsay’s parents did not respond to emails or a phone call left for them. Sharyn and Brian Lindsay wrote to the court at Briones’ resentencing in 2016, saying that time had done little to heal their hearts.

They wrote, “Isn’t a lifetime without our son enough without having to go through another court proceeding?”

They were in the courtroom as prosecutors played the 911 call in which Lindsay informed dispatchers he had been shot through a mouthful of blood.

Paul Charlton, one of the prosecutors at the time, recently told The Associated Press, “I can almost hear that tape.” “And if you had been through that trial, if you had seen the callous and remorseless way these individuals dealt with the evidence against them and their lack of remorse at the time, most people would be unsympathetic to Mr. Briones’ arguments, as I am today.”

A new leaf

Briones is a changed man, according to Bennit Hayes, who did time alongside him in the federal prison in Beaumont, Texas. Briones, he added, studied hard, worked hard, and inspired others to live better lives.

Riley Briones Jr.

Hayes, whose sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2016, stated, “He was the light in the candle that I placed up against everything else moving forward.”

Briones is now being held in a federal jail near Carmen Briones’ home on the Salt River reserve. They keep in touch, she claims, but haven’t seen each other since last May because of pandemic restrictions.

Riley Briones’ release from prison would allow them to be a family in a more meaningful way, she explained. But whatever the 9th Circuit decides, she said it won’t affect who her husband has become.

“He’ll continue to minister, mentor, be a positive example, and give guidance to those he comes into contact with wherever he is,” said Carmen Briones, who is Pascua Yaqui. “We’ve had enough appeals come and go that wisdom would tell you to just pray and see what happens,” says the author.

Source: 12newsnow