Please read the story of Isaiah Sweet. He is in need of legal counsel, or any assistance he can get.
What are your thoughts on his case?
Please email him through the prison email system listed at the end of this story.
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Isaiah Sweet was 17 years old when he pulled the trigger of a gun that would kill his grandmother and grandfather.
In that moment, he was finally free of the abusers who had tormented him for 13 years.
His initial sentence would set a precedent in Iowa for minors sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Isaiah was born to Stacy Sweet, a woman with a sordid past. She battled drug addiction and bounced from abusive relationship to abusive relationship. From a young age Isaiah Sweet was exposed to a life that no child should have to endure.
At just four years old Isaiah was raped by a neighbor. This would begin a long fight for Stacy Sweet’s parental rights to be revoked and Isaiah Sweet would be turned over to the legal custody of his grandparents, Stacy’s parents, Richard and Janet.
This living situation would not play out to be any better than he was with his biological mother.
In fact, before Isaiah was even born, a generation before him, Stacy would sit in her bedroom wishing her parents would die. Because, at their hand, Stacy herself also suffered sexual, physical, and mental abuse by them.
Richard and Janet not only abused Stacy, but they would start to abuse Isaiah shortly after he came into their care. Richard was an alcoholic and both Janet and Richard would abuse prescription pain medications.
Isaiah would later recount that he grew up feeling alone, isolated, unwanted, and unloved, by everyone in his life.
Isaiah would begin using drugs at a young age to escape from his horrible reality.
Additionally, many doctors experimented with various prescription medications with a young Isaiah, in an attempt to control the unruly behavior that developed in this troubled kid.
Later, mental health experts would testify under oath that at age 17, he functioned at a 12 year old level.
Years of physical and sexual abuse meant that any hope for a “normal” life would be slim.
Isaiah and his grandparents argued constantly. Richard would hit Isaiah frequently. He and Janet were in a constant screaming match with him, and they called the police on their grandson 18 times in the year leading up to the events that happened in May 2011.
Richard and Janet claimed they called police because Isaiah was unruly. However, Isaiah would state that his grandparents were typically under the influence of drugs and alcohol when they would call police, and that, in fact, they were the ones to physically harm him. He would say that police never arrested anyone in these altercations, and that they also would not listen to his pleas that he was being abused in the home.
There was also financial tension in the house. Richard and Janet were in heated litigation with Isaiah’s mom regarding a family inheritance. Richard’s own mother wrote him out of the will, bypassing him, and leaving her entire estate to her grandchildren, Stacy included. This infuriated Richard Sweet.
The abuse, the screaming matches, and the unfounded calls to police escalated to the point where Isaiah did not feel safe under the same roof as them anymore.
He would beg his biological mother to take him away from it all but she declined, stating she didn’t have a home suited for a child, and she didn’t have the financial means to care for him.
But she did have enough for a cell phone. She sent Isaiah a secret cell phone that he could use to talk to his mother without Janet & Richard finding out.
In those phone calls, Stacy would learn that Isaiah thought that Richard was attempting to come into his room at night. Isaiah told Stacy he overheard Richard & Janet discussing killing him – both in an effort to seek revenge on Stacy for the financial lawsuit and to rid them of the problem Isaiah had become in their lives.
Stacy taught Isaiah over the phone how to wedge a chair under the doorknob of his room to stay safe from the couple each night. She instructed him to jump out the bedroom window of their single-level home at the first sign of trouble.
It was around this time that Richard and Janet Sweet had Isaiah committed to a mental health institution. The time he was forced to spend there left even more scars on this troubled teen, and he would return to the home much worse off mentally than he was before.
All of this sent Isaiah into a mental health crisis. Like his mom before him, he did wish that his abusive grandparents would just die. Being a drug user, suffering so much abuse, and functioning at a 12 year old level at age 17, Isaiah got it in his head that ridding himself of Richard and Janet would be the only way he could ever stop the vicious abuse, find safety, and normalcy.
He was not thinking rationally. He was unable to consider the consequences of his actions.
Isaiah hung out with a rough crowd; people much older than him. He would ask his friend, Brandon, to find him a gun. Brandon obliged, and instructed Isaiah on how to use the gun to kill his grandparents.
On the afternoon of May 11, 2012, Isaiah had decided it was time. He’d been hit one too many times. He’d been screamed at and called worthless too many times. He had PTSD, drug-induced paranoia, learning disabilities, and so many things that prevented him from functioning at a reasonable level.
Sobbing, he pulled the trigger, again and then again, killing Richard and Janet Sweet where they sat.
Isaiah panicked. He would later say he was so high on drugs at the time, that a lot of the incident and the days after, are just a blur. But he does remember hiding anywhere he could, fields, forests, etc. He attempted suicide, unsuccessfully, more than once during this period.
On Mother’s Day 2012, relatives would find the Sweets bodies dead in their home, and Isaiah was on the run.
A manhunt ensued, and Isaiah, under the influence of meth and other drugs, would be apprehended.
Isaiah didn’t deny what he did. In fact, he would go into detail as to how the murder went down.
He would be charged, arraigned, and given a public defender.
His lawyer instructed Isaiah to plead guilty. This was of no benefit to Isaiah and was not effective counsel. His lawyer told him “we don’t speak ill of the dead,” and that the years of abuse, the death threats, and all the events leading up to the murder, should under no circumstances be discussed in court.
So, he pleaded guilty. At 17 years old, he was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole.
Other states in the US had previously deemed that life without the possibility of parole was cruel and unusual punishment for minors. And the Iowa Supreme Court would overturn this sentence changing it to a life sentence, giving him the eventual option of parole.
This case set a precedent in Iowa for future minors sentenced this way.
So that was it.
Isaiah was sent to prison for a crime he committed at 17 years old. He has spent the last decade, and then some, in a maximum-security prison in Iowa.
When asked about his appeal, Isaiah answered that he is not aware of an appeal ever being filed.
As a child in the prison system, with no money, no knowledge of how things worked, no family and no support system to help him, he assumes his appeal window of time came and went without anything being filed in his behalf.
So, nobody fought for this convicted minor. Nobody did their due diligence in giving Isaiah the representation he deserved under the Constitution.
During the time he has been in prison, he has educated himself, he has worked hard in his Prison Industries job, he has been a part of fundraisers, and organized various groups. Isaiah has a resume full of impressive activities and accomplishments.
He has sat on panels with educators working hard to prevent other minors from taking the same route that he did.
He has received any counseling that was available to him in his current facility, and he has made huge strides.
He has been in contact with several professionals who can attest to everything Isaiah has accomplished behind the prison walls. He has many good references available to him who would agree that he is not a future threat to society.
He wants to go to college, get his bachelor’s degree, and make a positive difference in the world.
He has accomplished everything he can possibly accomplish in his current prison facility. He is a very intelligent adult now. He is not a threat to society.
In fact, the system and society failed this child.
Failed him on an extreme level.
There were opportunities at many places for intervention.
Counseling. Therapy. Rehab.
Even local law-enforcement when called to the home did not step in after seeing that Isaiah‘s guardians were under the influence of substances. It was an epic failure in so many ways.
Obviously, Isaiah would love to live a life outside the prison walls one day. He has so many things he would like to do. Most of all, he wishes he knew then what he knows now and could go back in time and change what he did.
He knows what he did was wrong. He wishes he had not done it, although he has acknowledged that at the time it was the only thing, he felt that would set him free.
His main objective right now is to be transferred to another lower security prison where he can get additional counseling to fulfill the requirements that the prison system requires in order for future parole to be a possibility.
There are requirements in place for him to move forward, but he has told me that those requirements cannot be fulfilled in the prison facility he is in right now.
Isaiah sweet should not be punished for any longer for what he did as a child. What happened to this young man as a child is a travesty. It is the main cause that steered him to kill his abusers.
This is not a new scenario. It happens again and again. Many convicted people are eventually pardoned or paroled.
Isaiah Sweet deserves a chance at life. I would call it a “second chance” …. but it’s not. He came into this world without ANY chance, because of the family he was born into. If he is released, this will be a first chance at actually living life with quality and meaning, a life where he is not abused every day. Where he doesn’t have to live in fear.
Please help me in getting Isaiah Sweet transferred to a lower-security prison, and eventually paroled. Anything you can do is helpful.
Isaiah Sweet is currently serving a life sentence through the Iowa Department of Corrections.
He has been incarcerated since 2012.
Please email Isaiah Sweet.
He is housed at:
Iowa State Penitentiary
2111 330th Ave
Fort Madison, IA 52627
(you will need a CorrLinks account, which is easy to set up).
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