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August 13, 2013

US District Judge tells Michigan that all its mandatory juve LWOP sentences are unconstitutional

As reported in this local piece, headlined "Judge upholds ban on life, no parole for juveniles in Michigan," a federal district judge in the state up north has issued a new little opinion with significant impact for juve LWOP defendants sentenced before Miller.  Here are the basics:

A federal judge ruled Monday that Michigan must grant parole consideration to anyone convicted of murder as a juvenile, rejecting the state attorney general’s request that an earlier decision to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s ban on no-parole sentences for juveniles apply only to the convicts who challenged the state’s law.

Michigan has an automatic life-without-parole sentence for first-degree murder convictions, and applies at any age. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that it is cruel and unusual punishment to deny parole consideration to those who are under 18 when convicted. The state said at the time said it had more than 350 prisoners in that category, out of about 2,000 nationwide....

Acting on a 2010 suit by nine Michigan prisoners who received no-parole sentences as juveniles, U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara in Ann Arbor ruled Jan. 30 that Michigan must allow the possibility of parole in cases where the defendant is under 18 when convicted. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on mandatory no-parole punishments while that lawsuit was pending.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a motion that O’Meara’s decision apply only to those who brought the suit, while the ACLU asked that it apply to those now serving life without parole for convictions as juveniles. Schuette’s office has contended that the Supreme Court’s decision didn’t automatically apply to past sentences, only to those sentenced since the 2012 high court ruling.

On Monday, O’Meara rejected Schuette’s request and said the high court’s ruling applied to past as well as future sentences. State prosecutors “believe they may enforce the statute, which the court has declared unconstitutional, with respect to other juveniles sentenced to life in prison,” the judge wrote. “As this court now makes clear, defendants are incorrect.”

“Every person convicted of first-degree murder in the state of Michigan as a juvenile and who was sentenced to life in prison shall be eligible for parole,” the judge said.

Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout said the attorney general “disagrees strongly” with the ruling and said it would subject victims’ families “to re-live horrible tragedies at future parole hearings for teenage murderers already sentenced by a jury of their peers to life in prison without parole.”

“Once a final order is entered in this case, Attorney General Schuette intends to file an immediate appeal,” Yearout said in an email.

The order referenced here runs only two pages and is available at this link.  I think it kind of "resolves" the issue of whether and how the Supreme Court's Miller rulong applies retroactively in a potent and (unduly?) simplistic way.   It will be interest to see just how the Michigan AG develops his arguments on appeal and what the Sixth Circuit ultimately has to say about them.

August 13, 2013 at 07:02 PM | Permalink


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|Michigan has an automatic life-without-parole sentence for first-degree murder convictions, and applies at any age |

Do an adult crime at 17 & 364 days old, do adult time?
Not anymore in Michigan.
Not anywhere anymore in progressive America.
Not when "The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that it is cruel and unusual punishment.."

“You seem to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed,
and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy…Their power [is] the more dangerous as they are in
office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has
erected no such single tribunal...”--T. Jefferson letter to W.C. Jarvis, 1820

Posted by: Adamakis | Aug 14, 2013 1:31:31 PM

Adamakis, Michigan has always treated 17-year-olds as adults for criminal purposes, so anything other than murder-1 always carried, and still carries, the possibility of adult prison time, but with a possible out date. Life-with-parole used to require a first parole review at 10 years in (now 15 years in), with reviews at least once every five years thereafter. The possibility of getting parole on a parolable life sentence was never above 4% in total, and the wait was, typically, 23 years in to 10-year-minimum days, presumably now 28 years in the 15-year-minimum era, if one were among the 4% ever to be successful. Like Eric Holder's statement, it looks better on paper for the inmates than it likely will be in reality.

Posted by: Greg Jones | Aug 15, 2013 10:32:00 AM

G. Jones:
Here's what a "lifer" on parole did recently in nearby Illinois:

Convicted Murderer Accused of Killing Again:
Scottie Thompson, an Illinois man convicted of murder and released from prison 20 years early,
has been arrested and charged in the brutal murder of a 20-year-old man. Lauren Trager of News 4
reports that Thompson was on parole and wearing an ankle monitor when he beat 20-year-old
Dakota Jones to death and dumped his body in a lake over the weekend.

| Posted by CJLF Staff, August 14, 2013 |http://www.kmov.com/news/local/Convicted-murderer-accused-of-killing-again-while-wearing-ankle-monitor--219510531.html

Posted by: Adamakis | Aug 16, 2013 11:42:53 AM

Every convict should be entitle to be release on parole, regardless of his criminal charges and his alleged violent behavior. When a person has completed his term of
incarceration, it is not the duty of government officials
to "BOY COTT" his release back to society, because life in prison, is a death sentence within itself, because a
person will suffer "MENTAL TORTURE" behind bars, wondering who will be trying to kill him in jail. A person should be entitle to rehabilitation, like any other inmates that will be release from jail and parole officials cannot worry about whether the inmate will commit another criminal offense. Furthermore, parole officials are not judges and they do not have judicial power to revoke a parolee Post-Supervised Release term,
without violating the separation of power doctrine. The
Supreme Court Justice Judges had declared, that "AN AGENCY IS NOT A COURT." See Chevron, U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources. For the above facts, a Parole Board
shall be declare unconstitutional and a convicted person
should be require to serve his minimum prison term, without having to worry about a parole officer.

Posted by: milton taylor | Oct 12, 2013 1:08:26 AM

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