GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — More than 25 years after he killed a Grand Rapids cab driver, Maurice Montrell Sanders is being given a chance at freedom because of his behavior in prison and a diagnosis of cancer.
Sanders was 16 when he shot a Yellow Cab Co. driver during a robbery on the city’s Southeast Side. He was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to mandatory life behind bars.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court upended mandatory life sentences for juveniles, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office in 2016 asked for a no-parole sentence for Sanders, which is still permissible under some circumstances.
Sanders targeted Yellow Cab because its cars did not have bulletproof glass between the driver and back seat passengers, according to a motion to keep Sanders locked up for life.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker says he is no longer pursuing that avenue.
“He’s been a fairly decent individual while in prison,’’ Becker said. “Another thing that factored in, we found out that he had cancer. He’s got a medical condition.’’
Sanders was arrested soon after the Dec. 7, 1993 shooting death of Louis Biles III. The victim was driving a Yellow Cab when Sanders confronted him with a .22-calber handgun. Biles, 47, was shot once in the head.
He was found slumped over the wheel and his coin changer outside the cab on Charles Avenue SE south of Wealthy Street.
Sanders was found guilty and sentenced in September of 1994 to life without parole. That term began after he finished a mandatory two-year sentence for a felony firearms conviction.
Sanders is one of 13 killers the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office in 2016 said should remain locked up for crimes committed as teens. Resentencing hearing have been held in nine of those cases. Six defendants had their life sentences upheld; three were resentenced to a term of years.
Becker said watching how those nine cases played out contributed to his decision to ask for a term of years, rather than life.
“There are some more egregious cases that were out there in terms of the behavior and we did not get life without parole,’’ Becker said. “This one was a closer call to begin with. And we knew that going in.’’
Becker said he talked to the family of the slain cab driver before asking that Sanders receive a term of years. “They were supportive of this,’’ he said.
Sanders, who is at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility, will be resentenced by Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan; a date has not been set. The minimum sentence will fall between 25 and 40 years. He’ll be credited for time already served.
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