Convicted murderer, teen at the time, gets resentenced
- Jordan Wallick, 15 when he killed James Wallmuth III, was resentenced to 30 years to life.
- A U.S. Supreme Court decision deemed unconstitutional automatic life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder.
A murderer sentenced to life without parole for a crime he committed when he was 15 could now someday be a free man again.
Jordan Wallick, now 21, was initially sentenced to life without parole for the 2010 murder of James Wallmuth III, but Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner resentenced him Friday to 30 years to life, according to online court records.
Resentence: A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Miller v. Alabama deemed automatic life sentences for teens convicted of murder unconstitutional, opening up all such cases for resentencing.
Wallick was 15 at the time he murdered law student Wallmuth during a gang-related robbery in 2010 and 17 when he was convicted of second-degree murder. He received credit for a little over six years of prison time, online court records state.
His attorney, Dawn Cutaia, confirmed that Wallick is now eligible for parole in 2040. On Friday evening, she said she is discussing appeal rights with Wallick, and if they decide to file any motions, it will be within the next 10 days.
Hearing: Wallick's resentencing hearing was held Thursday and Friday.
During testimony on the first day, psychiatrists Dr. Larry Rotenburg and Dr. Frank Dattilio, expert witnesses for the state and defense, respectively, delivered similar diagnoses regarding Wallick's mental health. Both said he has progressed in his development and maturity in the last 22 months, but only after his first four years in prison mirrored his time on the streets before his conviction, including fighting and getting written up by prison officials eight or nine times for infractions.
Both doctors, while varying slightly in their clinical assessments of Wallick, agreed he could be rehabilitated over time if his behavior and decision-making continue to improve. Neither could predict, however, an exact time-frame for that to happen.
The state rested its case after calling its final witness, Laura Unger, a friend of Wallmuth and fellow Pitt Law School student, with whom Wallmuth should have graduated. Following Unger's brief testimony and a video of Pitt Law students who knew Wallmuth honoring him at their graduation in 2012, Wallick struggled through a written apology to the Wallmuth family.
"First and foremost, I want to say that I'm sorry. There isn't anything I can do or say to bring your loved one back," Wallick said, choking back tears. "I could apologize a million times, and that wouldn't change any of it."
He went on to say that he wakes up each day hating himself for what he's done, and if it were possible, he would exchange his life for Wallmuth's.
Second-degree murder: Wallmuth, 28, of West Manchester Township, worked in the York County District Attorney's Office for about four years as a case manager but left his job to attend law school at the University of Pittsburgh. He was back in York to do an internship at a local law firm.
On July 28, 2010, Wallmuth was sitting on a park bench near the corner of Grant Street and West Clarke Avenue in York, talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone, York City Police said.
Wallick, having recently become involved with a gang, was given a gun by some adults and told to rob Wallmuth for his cellphone, according to testimony.
He did but claimed Wallmuth grabbed the gun and there was an accidental discharge, striking Wallmuth in the back. Both Rotenberg and Dattillio said Wallick expressed remorse for the victim and for both the victim's family and his own, but Rotenberg said he downplays his role in the murder, minimizing and rationalizing his actions.
Wallmuth did not die instantly. Wallick told the doctors he remembers hearing Wallmuth cry out in pain, but as he walked away Wallick only thought he injured Wallmuth. He did not learn Wallmuth died until the next day, according to testimony.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.