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December 31, 2017

Looking at enduring challenges in Miller's application in Louisiana and elsewhere

This new lengthy AP piece, headlined "Ruling but no resolution on which teen killers merit parole," details the continuing debate in Louisiana and other states over application of the Supreme Court's recent Eighth Amendment jurisprudence on juve LWOP sentences. Here are excerpts:

Nearly two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prison inmates who killed as teenagers are capable of change and may deserve eventual freedom, the question remains unresolved: Which ones should get a second chance? Now the ruling — which came in the case of a 71-year-old Louisiana inmate still awaiting a parole hearing — is being tested again in that same state, where prosecutors have moved in recent months to keep about 1 in 3 former juvenile offenders locked up for the rest of their lives.

“There is no possible way to square these numbers with the directive of the Supreme Court,” said Jill Pasquarella, supervising attorney with the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, which found that district attorneys are seeking to deny parole eligibility to 84 of 255 juvenile life inmates whose cases are up for review.

Some prosecutors countered that the heinousness of some of the crimes makes these inmates the rare teen offenders the court said could still be punished with life behind bars. “In this community, some of the most violent crimes we’ve had have been committed by juveniles,” said Ricky Babin, district attorney for Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes, who has filed motions seeking new life-without-parole sentences in four of five cases.

The moves by Louisiana prosecutors echo the aggressive approach in Michigan, where district attorneys are seeking to keep two-thirds of 363 juvenile life inmates behind bars for good. That state’s cases have been on hold for months now awaiting a ruling on whether judges or juries should decide them. The friction prompts agreement by prosecutors and advocates that the nation’s highest court likely needs to step back into the debate over how the U.S. punishes juvenile offenders.

“It’s definitely clear now that the court does need to ... clarify that life without parole is unconstitutional for all children,” said Jody Kent Lavy, director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. “We’ve seen in certain states, in certain jurisdictions, that the standard that was set by the court ... is one that prosecutors and judges don’t necessarily feel compelled to follow.”

The court’s January 2016 ruling extended a ban on mandatory life without parole for juvenile offenders to those already in prison for murders committed when they were under 18. The decision didn’t lay out specific procedures for states to follow in reviewing the cases of those 2,000-plus inmates nationwide. Rather it said only that a lifetime behind bars should be reserved for the “rarest” offenders whose crimes reflect “irreparable corruption.”...

The decision ushered in a wave of new sentences and the release of dozens of inmates in states from Pennsylvania to Michigan, Arkansas and beyond — but also brought confusion and inconsistent approaches in other states, an Associated Press investigation earlier this year found.

In Louisiana, a law that took effect in August makes former teen offenders with no-release life terms eligible for parole after serving 25 years — unless a prosecutor intervenes. District attorneys had until the end of October to ask a judge to deny parole eligibility. Several district attorneys refused to discuss individual cases, and court paperwork they filed does not detail arguments against release. But prosecutors said their decisions were based on reviews of offenders’ crimes, their records in prison and talks with victims’ families. “These are all sensitive cases to victims. They lost a loved one in this,” said Scott Stassi, first assistant district attorney for Point Coupee, West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes. His office is seeking life without parole in all four of its cases....

Louisiana is being closely watched because the state has so many cases — only Pennsylvania and Michigan have more — and its justice system has a reputation for stiff punishment. A new U.S. Supreme Court petition filed by Pasquarella’s group and the national Juvenile Law Center calls out Louisiana for continuing to sentence juveniles to life without parole in 62 percent of new cases since 2012, including those in which offenders were convicted of second-degree murder. The petition seeks an outright ban on life without parole for juveniles; 20 states and the District of Columbia already prohibit the sentence for teens....

In New Orleans, with more juvenile life cases than any other judicial district in Louisiana, prosecutors are seeking to deny 30 inmates a chance for parole. The district has 64 cases, but nearly a quarter had been resolved before the new law took effect. District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro Jr. said the decisions should have been left to the state’s parole board, because it is better able than prosecutors to assess how inmates may have changed. The board will pass judgment on inmates whose parole eligibility is not opposed by prosecutors, but cases in dispute will be argued before a judge....

E. Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, thinks it is inevitable that the nation’s top court will be pressed to weigh in as prosecutors test the boundaries of the 2016 ruling. “Ultimately, whatever the court says we’ll abide by,” he said. The Supreme Court recently declined to hear two related cases, including an Idaho petition asking the justices for an all-out ban on juvenile life without parole. For now, that leaves decisions to local prosecutors, judges and parole officials.

A few recent related posts:

December 31, 2017 at 05:04 PM | Permalink


Louisiana should enact legislation waiving its tort immunity for the damages the released murderers will do to their communities and to its citizens. It should set aside a fund with $millions to compensate the victims of child abuse, rape, and murder that will result from these releases.

All Supreme Court judicial review is unlawful, and must be ignored.

Posted by: David Behar | Jan 1, 2018 8:37:55 AM

David get a life. Do the math here this individual is 71 if the cutoff age is 18 that means he has been in prison for 53 years. If he's not safe to release by now he never will be. Shoot the bastard and move on.

What it tells me is that the individuals determined to keep him locked up are either hate filled retards it sick depraved bastards just as dangerous as he was in his teens and should be in the cells next to him

Posted by: Rodsmith3510 | Jan 1, 2018 9:26:02 AM

Rod. We know who these people are at age 3. The crime meter of battery, sexual assaults, stealing starts to spin, and they never change. They slow down with age, true. However, I want the state to take responsibility when his grand daughter reports, Grandpa touched my wee wee, or the mute demented lady in the next room at the nursing home has been raped.

Release him, but be held accountable. Do not hide behind state immunity, dumping this toxic person on the public, usually poor people with little political power.

To the lawyer morons who say, he done great in prison for 50 years, it is the same as saying, his diabetes has been controlled on insulin. Let's release him from his structured setting. Let's stop the insulin.

His release is a cruelty. The state wants to dump his end of life care on the public and on Medicare. Meanwhile, he has to learn a completely new life at age 71. Not cool.

Posted by: David Behar | Jan 1, 2018 12:32:01 PM

Rod. Good news. Did not take long. I am banned on Facebook for 30 days, again. I will have a lot more time to devote to the Comment section of this blog.

Posted by: David Behar | Jan 1, 2018 3:28:44 PM

David, please try to keep it to one or two comments per day and/or per post. Regular readers are familiar with your standard take on most matters --- if you cannot say something new (and respectfully), please spend your time elsewhere.

Posted by: Doug B | Jan 2, 2018 9:57:24 AM

Professor, I fear your suggestion to Mr. Behar is a bit of wishful thinking. He is quite unable to control himself. Perhaps the host of the blog could enforce such limitations and decorum so that what is otherwise an interesting and educational site does not become subsumed by one reader's uninformed bile.

Posted by: Publius | Jan 3, 2018 9:11:55 AM

I prefer nudges to prohibitions, Publius, and we will see how it goes.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 3, 2018 12:31:42 PM

Doug. You identify yourself as a professor, implying an educational purpose to this blog. Indoctrination is advocacy of one point of view. Education addresses other points of view.

I suggest that you post an article that is pro-crime victim 1 in 100 posts, instead of 1 in 1000 posts.

Any repetitive Comment is in reply to your repetitive, mono-maniacal obsession with the interests of criminals. How can one explain such a monomania? Criminals generate fees for the lawyer profession. Victims generate nothing, and may rot.

Posted by: David Behar | Jan 4, 2018 1:00:29 PM

David, how can you explain that I have received literally 1000s of complaints about your comments and none that I can remember in your defense? I am sure there thousands of crime victims --- myself included --- who read this blog, yet the complaint I heard are always about your comments not my postings. Just sayin'

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 4, 2018 2:20:47 PM

I have explained that many times. They want all dissent shut down. Dissent poses questions about the current system of lawyer income from the protection, privileging, and empowerment of the criminal. You may review the Wikipedia article on the Rent Seeking Theory.

Threaten a $trillion bunko operation, returning nothing of value. With its 7% response rate, and its 20% false positive rate, the criminal law is close to irrelevant to anything to do with crime. One time, the law made an impact, after mandatory guidelines dropped crime 40% across the board. The most conservative Justice on the Supreme Court led the charge to end them. He saw massive lawyer unemployment, and did that bullshit you lawyers do, made up bullshit arguments, and violated Article I Section 1 of the constitution. The sole benefit is to have make work government workers make a living.

Your reader wants to be left alone to get updates on procedural developments they can use in their motions and in their briefs. They do not want to hear from someone feeling they need to all be fired. That is because they stink, and because they are the stupidest people in the country. Thus, it is unanimous. Everyone wants the ambassador from earth to the lawyer profession dead.

I tried to leave. Bill asked me to return.

Posted by: David Behar | Jan 4, 2018 7:18:15 PM

David, your screeds fail to incorportate real facts: mandatory guidelines were put in place in the federal system 1987 and the violent crime rate was at 609/100,000 that year. It stayed above that rate for the next decade (increasing a lot from 1987 to 1991), and started dropping lower than the 1987 rate only in 1998. Booker in 2005 made the guidleines advisory, and crime dropped further still for the next decade. And the mandatory guidelines made much more work for lawyers than the system that came before -- in part because it played a role in federal prosecutors bringing more cases.

I also doubt Bill asked you to return here, though especially since I believe you have been banished from where he blogs and so many other cites. The problem is not so much want you want to say but how you say it. Though in the Trump era, I suppose your mode of expression is becoming a bit more mainstream.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 6, 2018 3:06:11 PM

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