Nicole Ann Dupure is a number, 599905. It's the number that she will own until she dies alone in a prison. She has sat in a cell there since she was seventeen. It will be her home until she dies.
Nicole Ann Dupure may or may not have committed the crime that sent her to this home. The murder of her aunt. She didn't do the stabbing, that was the work of her then boyfriend. His term is 20 to 50 years.
When she was sentenced the judge took 264 days off, the time she had spent awaiting trial. What does that mean though when your sentence is life in prison, no chance of parole. She has no chance to prove she has changed, no chance to show remorse. She is a number until she dies.
She is just one of 2,270 juveniles that exist within the United States penal system who will never walk the grass as a free person. There is only one punishment stricter than theirs, the death penalty. Six of those committed to steel bars were just 13 when they were sentenced.
They will never vote, never give their own consent for medical reasons, never have a drink in a bar, serve their country in the armed forces. They will always live in the same home. Prison.
They were children when they were tried but not. Though their ages were that of a minor they were tried as an adult. That gave any chance of hope away. They are the walking dead.
In Michigan where Dupure is an inmate she is joined with 307 other children that will never venture past prison walls.
Dupure works 40 hours a week in the prison kitchen. She makes $7.20 a week for that work. She asked if she could take a business vocational course. She was denied. Why should the state pay for a course that will never be used. Those skills are for those who will be productive members of society. Dupure will never be in that group.
Dupure was a B average student before she was arrested. She had dreams of specialising in the treatment of heart defects as a medical lab tech. She wasn't a party girl. She hadn't ever committed a crime.
Then she met William Blevins while working at a grocery store. The nineteen year old charmed her and they began to date.
"I wasn't able to see the warning signs. My mum did. She said he didn't seem like a good kid and I shouldn't be around him as he would bring me down. I didn't listen to her. I thought like any teenager that she just didn't want me to have a boyfriend."
It didn't take long for Dupure to become pregnant. Blevins was thrown out of his home shortly after that. On April 23,2004 they were looking for a motel room to rent. That was a date that changed Dupure's life forever.
The couple went to Big Boy for a bite to eat. What happens next differs depending on who you talk to.
Shirley Perry, 89, lived close to the Big Boy. She was the best friend of Dupure's great-aunt. The pair had been to her place helping her out with odd jobs and shopping.
The official story is that Dupure and Blevins went to Perry's to kill her for her money. They took a mere $30 from the elderly woman after assaulting her with a cooking pot and stabbing her to death. Dupure is alleged to have fetched the knife from Perry's kitchen to give to Blevin's to stab the woman.
That's the official story.
Dupure's story is drastically different. she states that she was never at Perry's apartment to begin with. That Blevins acted alone and that she was sitting at the Big Boy's waiting for her boyfriend to return oblivious to the murder.
Blevin's version mirrored Dupure's for quite some time. That is until he went on trial. The prosecution gave him the lesser charge of second degree murder for 'ratting' Dupure out.
Under cross-examination, he conceded to the jury, "I never had intentions to pin it on her until I ran out of options."
The only certainty of the case is that the one with the lighter sentence was the one who committed the murder.
There was no forensic evidence tying Dupure to the scene of the crime. Just the word of a man who stabbed an elderly woman to death hoping for a lighter sentence.
During the trial the prosecution relied on Blevin's testimony. The defense may have thought they had an ace in their deck with the testimony of a fellow jail inmate of Blevins who stated on the stand that Blevins had ulterior motives for implicating Dupure.
It didn't matter, in the end jurors took between five and six hours in deliberation before finding Nicole Ann Dupure, 19, guilty as charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing and strangling death of Shirley Perry, 89.
"My client who supposedly aids him or facilitates it gets life, but the guy who actually did it gets 20 years because of a plea?" said defense attorney David Burgess after the verdict, adding that he is certain his client will appeal.
"It's not so much the trial, I think, that might raise issues for the appeal -- because I think we all made a pretty good record. I think the biggest source of concern will be the events and developments that occurred prior to the start of the trial."
Dupure learned her fate when she entered prison. For a time she was on Prozac for depression.
The prison doctor put her on Prozac but she stopped taking it; as she puts it, "I'm depressed because I'm in this place, not because I'm depressed."Technically, a child of any age could be incarcerated for life in Michigan for first-degree murder. Above the age of 14, suspects can be placed directly into the adult court system. At that point, even the judges' hands are tied. If a child is convicted in an adult court of a range of serious offences - taking part in a robbery that leads to murder, say - they must automatically be given life without parole, even where the judge feels that is inappropriate.
That's correct, in the state of Michigan a child is sentenced more harshly than an adult. Had Dupure had been 18 at the time of the crime she would not be facing a life in prison.
Very few countries will sentence their young to life in prison. None of the countries that have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are allowed to. The United States is in the small minority that have not signed.
Dupure's daughter is now two-years-old. Her mother adopted her. She has seen her once. Her parents regularly visit. She does her best to appear positive in their presence.
"I do my best to hide it when I'm not coping. Especially from my dad. He's 73 and he thinks he will die before I get out."
There are three slim chances of hope for a prisoner put away for life. One is that they win an appeal proving that there was a flaw in their trial process. Another is they are granted a pardon by the governor of Michigan. That has never happened. The third is a bill that changes the law and is retroactive. There is a bill going before Michigan's lawmakers this autumn.
"Sending someone to prison is partly about public security and partly about punishment. People are coming to understand that child prisoners should have a chance to prove they no longer pose a risk. And on punishment, then surely having a person spend more of their life in a prison cell than they had lived as children on the outside has to be sufficient even for the most unforgiving of people."
Deborah LaBelle, a leading lawyer who is supporting the bill on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union.