State v. Belcher




Connecticut Supreme Court

Citation and Year

268 A.3d 616 (2022)

Constitutional Provision or State Statute

Conn. Practice Book Sec. 43-22 (“The judicial authority may at any time correct an illegal sentence or other illegal disposition, or it may correct a sentence imposed in an illegal manner or any other disposition made in an illegal manner.”)

Nature of Case

Keith Belcher, a 14-year-old Black boy, argued that his 60-year prison sentence was imposed “in an illegal manner” because it was based on unfounded and pernicious racial stereotypes about the dangers posed by “super predator” youth.


“[T]he defendant established that the sentencing court substantially relied on materially false information in imposing his sentence, specifically, on the court’s view that the defendant was a ‘charter member’ of a mythical group of teenage ‘‘superpredators.’” This violated Belcher’s due process rights, and the court ordered resentencing.


In addition to citing the influence of the racist and discredited “super predator” myth, the court invoked new constitutional limits on juvenile sentencing and U.S. Supreme Court precedent explaining the mitigating characteristics of youth: “by invoking the superpredator myth to sentence the young, Black male defendant … the sentencing court, perhaps even without realizing it, relied on materially false, racial stereotypes that perpetuate systemic inequities—demanding harsher sentences—that date back to the founding of our nation. In addition, contrary to [Supreme Court precedent], in relying on the superpredator myth, the sentencing court counted the characteristics of youth as an aggravating factor.”