Sending juveniles to prison for life unconstitutional, federal judge rules

From: Detroit Free Press:
Jan. 30th 2013
By L.L. Brasier, Detroit Free Pree Staff Writer

A federal judge ruled unconstitutional Michigan laws that send juveniles convicted of murder to prison for life and ordered that the 350 juvenile lifers in the state have a chance at parole.

In issuing his ruling this afternoon, Judge John Corbett O’Meara noted the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that juveniles can’t be treated as adults, and as such, can’t be sentenced as adults to life behind bars.

The Michigan Court of Appeals, in a ruling late last year, said the decision did not apply retroactively.

O’Meara disagreed.

“Indeed, if there ever was a legal rule that should, as a matter of law and morality be given retroactive effect, it is the rule announced (by the U.S. Supreme Court), O’Meara wrote. “To hold otherwise would allow the state to impose unconstitutional punishment on some persons but not on others, an intolerable miscarriage of justice.”

Attorney Deborah Labelle, who filed a lawsuit against the state in November 2010 on behalf of several prisoners who were sentenced as juveniles, hailed the decision.

“It is a big win for us,” she said. “As of this moment, every juvenile and those convicted as juveniles serving life are parolable.”

O’Meara ordered that Labelle submit a motion describing the criteria that the parole board will have to follow in determining parole for those behind bars. That motion is due March 1.

The issue is still being litigated in state courts, and it’s unlikely any juvenile lifers will be re-sentenced soon. The appellate court’s decision that the ruling does not apply to current prisoners is being challenged in the Michigan Supreme Court.

A spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said his office is reviewing the decision and considering options for appeal.

Read the rest here:
http://www.freep.com/article/20130130/NEWS06/130130066/Sending-juveniles-prison-life-unconstitutional-federal-judge-rules

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