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Woman Convicted At 15 Of Murder Released From Prison

Last updated on Tuesday, June 18, 2013

(GARY) - The ringleader in a Gary murder case that sparked an international outcry is free today after serving 28 years of her 60-year sentence.

Paula Cooper, now 43, was 15 when she stabbed an elderly Bible teacher to death during a robbery.

The death sentence she received the following year sparked global pleas for mercy, including an appeal from Pope John Paul II.

Cooper spent two years on Death Row before the Indiana Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to execute killers who were younger than 16. The U.S. Supreme Court later raised the threshold to 18.

Willie Jenkins heads Indy's Ex-Offender Re-Entry Program. He says people convicted of violent crimes sometimes have more trouble rejoining the world, because it's harder to find employers willing to take a chance on them.

He says there's no way to draw a general connection between the viciousness of a crime and the likelihood of rehabilitation -- he says it depends on the attitude of each individual offender. Those who leave prison believing society owes them something for having served their time, he says, are the ones most likely to fail.

Jenkins says he doesn't know enough about Cooper to speculate on how she'll do.

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