August 16, 2012
"What is the fairest way for Pa. to deal with juvenile lifers petitioning for resentencing?"
The question in the title of this post comes from this local piece from Pennsylvania. Along with this companion piece, which is headlined "Pennsylvania is battleground for implementing Supreme Court ruling on young lifers," the report does a nice job spotlighting the challenges facing the Keystone State in the wake of the Supreme Court's work in Miller. Here is an excerpt from the piece which sets out some additional questions concerning which I am interested in comments:
Pennsylvania has more prisoners who were sentenced to life without parole as minors than any other state — about 500 — and the least amount of time to deal with the flood of resentencing petitions. Under existing state law, those prisoners have 60 days to re-open their cases, while some states have as long as a year.
If the decision is to work retroactively, which is not at all clear yet, it could mean a lot of potential resentencing hearings and a lot of unhappiness dredged up for the families of murder victims. What is the fairest way of dealing with this?
Iowa's Gov. Terry Branstad sidestepped the issue in July by commuting the life sentences of 38 juvenile offenders and making them eligible for parole after 60 years. The action seems to be an attempt to protect victims' families, who would be forced to sit through parole hearings if lifers are granted new sentences. He eliminated that possibility and, in going against the spirit of the Supreme Court decision, sparked criticism and legal challenges.
Do you think individual prisoners should be entitled to a resentencing hearing, or is this an unfair burden on Pennsylvania's legal system?
Speaking of unfair — should victims' families be forced to reopen old wounds with more legal proceedings?
Would you support a blanket solution like Branstad's (which, as far as we know, is not on the table in Pa.), or do you think his disregard for individual cases was unfair?
August 16, 2012 at 08:10 AM | Permalink
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Start appointing attorneys for every juvenile LWOP offender. In ED VA, prisoners potentially affected by the retroactive crack guidelines were appointed attorneys, but only after they filed their own 3582 motion pro se - I don't think that's appropriate with juveniles.
Since the retroactivity is a threshold issue, perhaps the Penn Supreme Court could accelerate review - if there's a mechanism under Penn law. But it does seem a waste of resources to have to decide retroactivity singly in these 500+ cases.
Posted by: Gray R. Proctor | Aug 16, 2012 8:28:02 AM
I might go with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.
We may do best to kick in another quarter century, but the objective ought be to grant these murderers as high a sentence as possible whilst yet withstanding court (liberal) nullification.
Posted by: Adamakis | Aug 16, 2012 9:45:15 AM
The fairest way would be to end uncertainty - actually the job of the Supreme Court which, yet again, has flunked the responsibility by declining to specify the process and boundaries by which their ruling should be implemented. If they spent less time worrying about the words of an ancient text and more on the consequences of their decision-making for human beings, they would both gain a lot more respect and serve the US justice system more in the manner anticipated, I'm sure, by the writers of the US Constitution. As for "should victims' families be forced to reopen old wounds with more legal proceedings?" - the verdicts of guilt, if justified, should be sufficient .... they should not expect nor be granted access to processes of ongoing punishment. The pressure here for them to have that access is itself unfair, unwarranted and detrimental to closure.
Posted by: peter | Aug 16, 2012 4:04:38 PM
i'm with peter here! our whole crop of rescent say last 30 years or so of ussc judges seem to spend more time DODGING a damn decison than making one that is simple to understand.
i also agree about the victims. Their time in this is done. These are or should be simple administrative hearings. Guilt is already decided.
as for this bit of stupidity!
"or is this an unfair burden on Pennsylvania's legal system?"
There is NO such thing as an unfair burden on the legal system.
EACH of these individuals is CONSTUTIONALLY entitled to a fair trial and a FAIR sentence! Seems the USSC has ruled the trial's were fair BUT the sentence was NOT! Seems a NO BRAINER to think that means a NEW sentence hearing! PERIOD!
as for any inconvience to the justice sytem. TOUGH SHIT! Maybe if it and it's supporters hadn't been so gung ho on shafting the ones in front of it to the MAX they would not NOW be STUCK!
what is it the lock em up now like to say!
"Don't do the crime if you can't do the time!"
never mind that a big part of the ones getting hit these days are getting hit with UNKNOWN RETROACTIVE laws! NOBODY could forsee.
so all i can say is. "Don't give out MAX sentneces if you don't want to get hammered by a HIGHER COURT!"
Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 16, 2012 5:22:42 PM
[Calif.] Court: Youths must have chance for parole
Published 2:35 p.m., Thursday, August 16, 2012
(08-16) 14:33 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Juveniles who are sentenced to long terms for non-homicide crimes must be given a reasonable chance to be freed in their adult life by showing that they have matured in prison, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday in overturning a teenager's 110-year term for three attempted murders.
The ruling in People vs. Caballero, S190647, can be viewed at www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S190647.PDF.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Court-Youths-must-have-chance-for-parole-3793907.php
Posted by: George | Aug 16, 2012 5:52:54 PM
"As for 'should victims' families be forced to reopen old wounds with more legal proceedings?' - the verdicts of guilt, if justified, should be sufficient .... they should not expect nor be granted access to processes of ongoing punishment. The pressure here for them to have that access is itself unfair, unwarranted and detrimental to closure."
I'm going to go on record and say that Peter's preference for making sure that victims' families are neither seen nor heard at sentencing has nothing to do with any concern for their attainment of "closure" but because he believes that sentencing proceedings should focus exclusively on the person Peter considers the true unfortunate victim (of society) -- the defendant -- and his rehabilitative needs, without any consideration of the impact of his crime on society.
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