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October 14, 2012

One of thousands of post-Miller personal (and sentencing) stories

The front page of today's New York Times includes this notable account of one set of stories surrounding one Pennsylvania juvenile murder case dealing with the potential impact of the Supreme Court's Miller ruling. The piece is headlined "Juvenile Killers and Life Terms: a Case in Point," and here is how it gets started:

To this day, Maurice Bailey goes to sleep trying to understand what happened on Nov. 6, 1993, when as a 15-year-old high school student he killed his 15-year-old girlfriend, Kristina Grill, a classmate who was pregnant with his child.

“I go over it pretty much every night,” said Mr. Bailey, now 34, sitting in his brown jumpsuit here at the Fayette State Correctional Institution in western Pennsylvania, where he is serving a sentence of life without parole for first-degree murder.  “I don’t want to make excuses. It’s a horrible act I committed. But as you get older, your conscience and insight develop. I’m not the same person.”

Every night, Bobbi Jamriska tries to avoid going over that same event.  Ms. Jamriska, Kristina’s sister, was a 22-year-old out for a drink with friends when she got the news. Ten months later, their inconsolable mother died of complications from pneumonia.  Weeks later, their grandmother died.  “During that year, I buried four generations of my family,” Ms. Jamriska said at the dining room table of her Pittsburgh house, taking note of her sister’s unborn child.  “This wrecked my whole life. It completely changed the person I was.”

When the Supreme Court in June banned life sentences without parole for those under age 18 convicted of murder, it offered rare hope to more than 2,000 juvenile offenders like Mr. Bailey.  But it threw Ms. Jamriska and thousands like her into anguished turmoil at the prospect that the killers of their loved ones might walk the streets again.

The ruling did not specify whether it applied retroactively to those in prison or to future juvenile felons.  As state legislatures and courts struggle for answers, the clash of the two perspectives represented by Mr. Bailey and Ms. Jamriska is shaping the debate. Resentencing hearings have begun in a few places, but very slowly.

The governor of Iowa commuted the mandatory life sentences of his state’s juvenile offenders but said they had to stay in jail for 60 years before seeking parole, which critics said amounted to life in prison.  Some Iowa resentencing is starting in courts despite that proclamation.

In Florida, a few hearings are in early stages even though an intermediate court ruled that juveniles serving mandatory life terms did not have the right to be resentenced.  In North Carolina, life without parole has been changed from a requirement to an option, with a 25-year minimum sentence for those seeking parole.

Here in Pennsylvania, which has the most juvenile offenders serving life terms — about 480 — the State Supreme Court is examining retroactivity while the legislature works on a bill that would put felons like Mr. Bailey behind bars for a minimum of 35 years.

The United States Supreme Court decision said that sentences of life without parole for juveniles failed to take account of the role of the offender in the crime (killer or accomplice), the family background (stable or abusive) and the incomplete brain development of the young.  Recent research has found that youths are prone to miscalculate risks and consequences, and that their moral compasses are not fully developed.  They can change as they get older.

UPDATE: I just came across this separate article from the Detroit Free Press providing a Michigan perspective on these post-Miller issues.   The piece is headlined "Supreme Court ruling may give those sentenced to life as juveniles a chance at freedom," and it highlights that "[w]ith 358 juvenile lifers, Michigan ranks second in the country behind Pennsylvania, which has 475 juvenile lifers ... [and] accounts for nearly 14% of the more than 2,600 prisoners serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed when they were juveniles."

October 14, 2012 at 01:45 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The feminist lawyer has infantalized the otherwise adult adolescent, by arbitrarily setting the age at 18. Nothing happens at 18, does not happen at 28, 48, 68. The adolescent is immature and miscalculates risks from lack of experience. The adolescent is intentionally deprived of experience to keep highly capable, fast moving workers from the labor market. They are forced into that bad babysitting service high school.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=age+of+adulthood

The adolescent outperforms the adult on all tests of mental function. Ultimately, they have the morals and crime rates of old people. Therefore adolescent criminals are more deviant and dangerous than older criminals. Only in the upside down, Twilight Zone of the feminist lawyer is this difference used as an excuse.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 14, 2012 2:13:39 PM

We are arguing the Carp case on Tuesday. The Court has invited amici to participate in oral arguments, removed the hard time limit on orals and replaced it with a longer "soft cap." The briefs are on my website:

http://www.crimapp.com/carp

Posted by: Stuart Friedman | Oct 15, 2012 11:01:02 AM

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