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August 7, 2012

Pennsylvania Supreme Court expedites consideration of post-Miller juve LWOP issues

As reported in this AP article, "Pennsylvania's highest court is moving quickly to determine how the state should respond to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional." Here is more:

The state Supreme Court on Monday scheduled oral arguments for Sept. 12 in a pair of cases that will determine what to do about the hundreds of people already serving such sentences, as well as how to handle the issue going forward.

The defendants are Ian Cunningham, serving life for a second-degree murder conviction out of Philadelphia, and Qu'Eed Batts, convicted of first-degree murder in Northampton County.  Cunningham's case concerns lifers who have exhausted direct appeals and want to bring up the high court's ruling as a new matter.  In the Batts case, the justices directed lawyers to address what the appropriate remedy is, as a general matter, for those sentenced to life without parole....

The state Department of Corrections lists 373 lifers who were under age 18 at the time they were sentenced.  Others say the number of juvenile lifers is actually closer to 500, because the department's number excludes people who turned 18 before they were sentenced.  A March report by The Sentencing Project, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., said Pennsylvania had the most juvenile lifers of any state, and by some estimates the national total is about 2,500....

The state prosecutors' association offered testimony at a state Senate hearing on the topic last month in Harrisburg, arguing that the Supreme Court ruling should not be retroactively applied and suggesting a new sentencing scheme in which juveniles convicted of first- or second-degree murder would be ineligible for release before age 60.

August 7, 2012 at 07:32 PM | Permalink

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