Concurrent sentencing renders someone’s life meaningless

In 2008, Brian Flowers, a month shy of 17, participated with another juvenile male in the brutal murders of Katricia Daniels and her 10-year-old son Robert Shepard in their North Minneapolis home.

I recall these murders which happened while I was an investigative commander with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. It was widely known to be one of the worst murder scenes in most officers’ memories, and processing the scene took multiple days to complete. This case has stuck with veteran police officers the rest of their lives.

Records indicate Daniels was stabbed 193 times and suffered 56 defensive wounds while trying to save herself. Shepard was killed in his bedroom, presumably to eliminate a witness. Shepard was both beaten with a TV set that was smashed onto his head and stabbed 30 times about his upper torso and neck. Shepard’s cause of death was described as “complex homicidal violence.”

“These are among the worst, if not the worst I’ve probably ever seen,” Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker said of the injuries inflicted on the victims. 

If there was a representative case to justify life in prison without the possibility for parole, this was the case.

The police investigated the case, developing probable cause to arrest Flowers for his involvement in the murders. 

The County Attorney charged Flowers with murder, then convened a Grand Jury which heard testimony and reviewed evidence before indicting Flowers with two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, and two counts of first-degree murder while committing robbery.

The trial court jury found Flowers guilty of the murders of Daniels and Shepard. The trial courts sentenced Flowers to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, which was allowable under the law at the time.

Flowers’ conviction was reviewed by the Minnesota Supreme Court which upheld the conviction.

Subsequent to Flowers’ sentencing, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that life sentences without the possibility for parole for juveniles was unconstitutional.

As a result, Flowers has petitioned Minnesota courts to be resentenced several times.

Flowers was initially resentenced to two concurrent life sentences with the possibility for parole after 30 years, but upon the State’s appeal was later resentenced to two consecutive life sentences with the possibility for parole after 60 years.

During the 2023 legislative session, the DFL majority passed legislation which further impacted sentencing of murder defendants who were juveniles at the time of the murder(s). The new law cut in half the amount of time a juvenile murderer could serve before becoming eligible for parole. A life sentence of 30 years before parole eligibility now stands at just 15 years — and it was made to be retroactive, affecting all prior sentences as well.

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty asked Ramsey County Attorney John Choi to review Flowers’ case for resentencing consideration, due to a conflict of interest. 

Upon review Choi’s office filed a stipulation agreeing to Flowers’ being resentenced from two consecutive life sentences (30 years) to two concurrent sentences (15 years). 

Last week the trial court resentenced Flowers yet again, making him immediately eligible for parole, having served just 15.7 years for his participation in the intentional, brutal murders of a mother and her 10-year-old son. 

In defense of his decision, Choi stated the new sentence takes into account “…the significant changes to Federal and State laws that occurred during this lengthy litigation,” and that it “recognized the reality that the distinction between consecutive and concurrent sentences for Mr. Flowers was small due to retroactive changes in the law made by the Minnesota Legislature in 2023.”

Small? Resentencing Flowers from consecutive to concurrent sentences effectively cut 15 years from his sentence. Such a move is a complete insult to justice and renders the life of either victim completely meaningless. 

By this rationale, the life of the 16-month-old baby, who was not harmed but left sitting on a bed near her dead mother and brother, was just as meaningless. 

Had Flowers and his accomplice killed the baby too, would concurrent sentencing be appropriate? Of course not. But why then is concurrent sentencing appropriate for those who stabbed and bludgeoned to death an innocent 10-year-old boy to prevent him from being a witness to their murder of the boy’s mother? 

History will harshly judge those wrapped up in the current progressive minded sentencing reform movement. They have convinced themselves of their righteousness when nothing about their actions is even remotely righteous. They have also lost sight of the victims in such cases, transferring some warped sense of victimhood onto murderous teens. 

The resentencing of Flowers was the work of many experienced professionals in our justice system (and our Legislature). It’s shocking just how misguided their efforts were. 

We deserve better. Daniels and Shepard deserve better.