Children and Life Sentences

Yesterday the Michigan Court of Appeals released a very disappointing opinion wherein they decided that, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to the contrary, Michigan courts can continue to sentence minors to life imprisonment without parole for murder – as long as the judge makes an informed decision to do so. So said the court:

“The United States Supreme Court has, through a series of recent decisions culminating in Miller, indicated that juveniles are subject to different treatment than adults for purposes of sentencing under the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, we hold that in Michigan a sentencing court must consider, at the time of sentencing, characteristics associated with youth as identified in Miller when determining whether to sentence a juvenile convicted of a homicide offense to life in prison with or without the eligibility for parole. While Miller does not serve to “foreclose a sentencer’s ability to make that judgment in homicide cases, we require it to take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.”

The Court also ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding is NOT retroactive – meaning that any children who were given life offenses without parole in a case where the judge didn’t consider the special circumstances of the child, the law doesn’t allow those children to apply for parole or resentencing. Bottom line: Those children are screwed.

This is a terrible opinion and it needs to immediately be appealed. Hopefully it will be.

You can read the full opinion here: http://publicdocs.courts.mi.gov:81/OPINIONS/FINAL/COA/20121115_C307758_66_307758.OPN.PDF

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