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February 18, 2018

Is Henry Montgomery of Montgomery v. Louisiana perhaps on the verge of a parole grant? UPDATE: NO by 2-1 vote by parole board

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new commentary by Jody Kent Lavy, executive director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, who write about a high-profile defendant soon to be considered for parole at age 71. Here are excerpts:

Henry Montgomery has been incarcerated in Louisiana prisons since he was 17 years old, and today he is 71.   He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole when he was only a child, for the impulsive shooting of a sheriff's deputy decades ago.

As a result, he has missed a lifetime’s worth of events, learning, and relationships.  The United States Supreme Court ruled two years ago in his case, Montgomery v. Louisiana, that it is unconstitutional to impose a life-without-parole sentence on the vast majority of youth — a sentence the United States alone imposes on its children.  Still, Montgomery remains incarcerated, and will finally see the parole board just days from now....

And although Montgomery’s case has become emblematic of the fight to end the brutal practice of sentencing children to life without parole (and to other extreme sentences), Montgomery is not yet free.  Prosecutors in Louisiana are fighting his freedom, despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling his sentence unconstitutional, along with such sentences for all youth whose crimes reflect “transient immaturity” rather than “irreparable corruption” — a trait I cannot imagine any child possessing, given where they are developmentally.  But it certainly isn’t true of Montgomery, whom I was fortunate to meet last year.  He is a soft-spoken, gentle man who has tried to make the most of his time in prison by coaching boxing, silk-screening, and serving as a mentor.

While Montgomery and his supporters look forward to his hearing Monday, there is a sea change afoot, just about everywhere but Louisiana, where prosecutors are seeking to reimpose life-without-parole sentences on approximately one-third of those given relief by Montgomery.  Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, hundreds of individuals like Henry Montgomery have come home over the past two years because of the court’s ruling and over a thousand have been resentenced to lesser terms.  States across the nation are abandoning life without parole at a remarkable rate.  And the sky has not fallen.

Few of us make decisions today like we did when we were 15, 16, or 17.  Our brains, not just our bodies, matured.  A growing number of courts, legislatures, prosecutors, and parole boards understand this.  And still, Montgomery — a gentle man, guilty of a crime for which he deserved to be held accountable in ways which reflected his age and life experiences — sits in prison.

UPDATE: This local article, headlined "Board denies parole to man who served 50 plus years after killing deputy when he was juvenile," reports the results of Henry Montgomery's parole hearing this morning. It starts this way:

The Louisiana parole board on Monday morning denied freedom to 71-year-old Henry Montgomery, whose case was central in a Supreme Court decision about juvenile offenders sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The three-member Louisiana Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole voted 2 to 1 to deny parole to Montgomery, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1963 shooting of an East Baton Rouge Sheriff's deputy.

"This is a parole hearing, it's not a sentencing hearing," said James Kuhn, the chairman of the parole panel. "I don't know what the victim would want, but he's a law enforcement officer. ... One of the things that society demands is that everyone abide by the rule of law and when you don't, there are consequences."

Kuhn and parole board member Kenneth Loftin, who both voted against Montgomery's parole, primarily cited the fact that Montgomery only completed two classes during his 54 years in prison.

However, Montgomery's lawyer, Keith Nordyke, argued that his client had received a waiver saying he could not complete his GED, and many classes were not available to inmates serving life during the first few decades of his time in prison.

February 18, 2018 at 11:07 PM | Permalink


I'm inclined to be verbose but simply put this seems to be simply ridiculous.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 19, 2018 10:57:01 AM

Montgomery did well in the structured setting of prison. His handicap is morality. External structure is to his handicap what a wheel chair is to a paraplegic. Now, these people want to throw him out of his wheelchair. He will have to learn a new environment after 50 years in prison. Can he get social security, or will he have no money on which to live?

Cruel to Montgomery. But let's do the experiment. See what happens. Throw him out of prison with a $20 bill.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 19, 2018 1:05:14 PM


Posted by: ohwilleke | Feb 19, 2018 1:30:41 PM

It seems relevant here that the HS graduation rate in Alabama was 87% 2017, though at time of his conviction is was much lower. It seems specious then to say that he can't be paroled because he hasn't finished his GED when the state can't even educated all of the non-incarcerated properly.

Posted by: Selfie Man | Feb 19, 2018 1:31:36 PM

"As a result, the sheriff's deputy has missed a lifetime’s worth of events, learning, and relationships."

I definitely think that the court should be forced to bring the deputy back to life. Giving him permanent death certainly violated the eighth amendment. People shouldn't be required to remain dead just because they were killed. Hopefully the supreme court will find a right to reincarnation in the fourteenth amendment's substantive due process clause.

Posted by: Blue Lives Matter | Feb 19, 2018 2:11:28 PM

"there are consequences"

Fifty years in prison. Next argument.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 19, 2018 2:26:34 PM

The decision is the kind and humane choice for Montgomery.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 20, 2018 3:01:50 PM

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