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February 10, 2013

Top Texas criminal court to hear case on Miller retroactivity

Over at Grits for Breakfast, Scott Henson has this helpful post reporting on the recent decision by the top criminal appeals court in Texas to consider the application of Miller in the Lone Start state.  Here is how the post gets started:

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals this week agreed to hear arguments in Ex Parte Terrell to determine whether the Supreme Court's Miller v. Alabama — a case which banned life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juveniles if lesser options weren't offered — applies retroactively in Texas.   As I understand it, around 28 Texas prisoners convicted of capital murder at age 17 since 2005 find themselves in that category: That's when the Legislature eliminated life without parole for juveniles 16 and under who, when convicted of capital murder, are now eligible for parole after 40 years.

For 17-year olds, though, who are tried as adults, there is presently no legal sentence available under Texas law. A 2005 statute made the death penalty and LWOP the only available sentences for adults convicted of capital murderers, and for purposes of trying to kill them or incarcerate them for life, at least, Texas treats 17 year olds as adults.  Or they were until the Supreme Court said that, for the most extreme sentencing purposes, they belonged in the juvenile category.  The SCOTUS ruling prompted state courts, now including Texas, to reconsider their old juvie LWOP sentences, and the results have been all over the map.  In Texas, this will be a case of first impression.

February 10, 2013 at 11:52 AM | Permalink

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