Appeals court overturns life sentence for Kzoo teen murder suspect

Victor Garay (June 3, 2014).

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A teenager sentenced to life in prison for the 2014 murder of a 13-year-old boy has had that sentence overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Victor Garay was 16 years old when he was convicted by a Kalamazoo County jury for the May 2014 shooting death of Michael Day.

Michael Day. (Undated courtesy photo)
Michael Day. (Undated courtesy photo)

Police said shots were fired after fights between rival gangs and Day was hit in the chest. The shooting happened near the intersection of Lake Boulevard and Race Street, not far from his family’s home. He died later at the hospital.

Before sentencing, his defense attorney filed a motion to set aside the verdict, arguing one of the jurors knew an officer who testified and vouched for the officer’s expertise in firearms. The jurors were also allegedly using their phones in the jury room.

The Kalamazoo County judge upheld the jury verdict and sentenced Garay to life in prison. Garay appealed his conviction and sentence.

In a ruling released Wednesday, the Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, but threw out the life sentence and sent the case back to Kalamazoo County Circuit Court for a new sentencing hearing. The Court of Appeals said the Kalamazoo judge used the wrong standard when sentencing a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility for parole.

It is possible Garay could still be sentenced to life in prison, but he could also get a term of years, making it possible for him to one day get parole. The ruling could also be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.