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October 24, 2013

Michigan Senate passes (prospective-only) Miller fix proposal

As reported in this local article, headlined "Michigan juvenile lifers: Senate moves to fix unconstitutional law, not offer resentencing," the Michigan legislature is finally making some progress on reforming unconstitutional aspects of its juvenile sentencing scheme.  Here are the details:

The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved legislation that would allow some minors convicted of murder to avoid life in prison -- unless they are already behind bars and have exhausted appeal.

Senate Bills 318 and 319, now headed to the House for consideration, would update Michigan laws that currently allow mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for offenders who were under 18 at the time of their crime....

Under the Senate proposal, prosecutors could still seek life sentences without the possibility of parole for minors.  But judges, after considering aggravating and mitigating circumstances, would be given new discretion to impose a prison term of between 25 and 60 years.  With good behavior, an individual convicted at 15 could have the chance to request a parole hearing and make their case for release when they reached 40.

The bills would not apply retroactively, meaning that "juvenile lifers" already behind bars and out of appeals would not have the opportunity for parole.  Michigan is home to more than 360 juvenile lifers, the second-highest total in the nation.

State Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, proposed an amendment that would have added retroactivity to the legislation, but sponsoring Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, argued against it, and the amendment was shot down.  "The bill brings us into compliance with the Supreme court ruling," said Jones. "It does not go into retroactivity because they didn't address that."

Advocates say that juvenile lifers deserve the same opportunities for release as future convicts, but victim families have argued that opening old cases would also open old wounds.

The Supreme Court did not address the retroactivity question, and state and federal courts have offered different answers. U.S. District Court Judge John Corbet O'Meara has said Michigan juvenile lifers deserve a "fair and meaningful possibility of parole," but he has not yet determined what that possibility should look like.

State Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, has introduced House measures that include retroactivity for juvenile lifers.  But those bills, the subjects of an emotional hearing in August and opposition from Attorney General Bill Schuette, have not advanced out of committee.

October 24, 2013 at 10:39 PM | Permalink

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I am going off topic here. Every day and night, I read blogs-- law blogs. This is the best one. Doug the caretaker here spends a lot of time on this blog and is tolerant of us commenters who rant and rave. But I learn from the commenters and from the topics. I am going blind and may have to get a guide dog read this to me in the not too distant future.

Thank you Doug.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Oct 25, 2013 12:24:54 AM

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