Henry Hill, a 45-year-old Michigan man serving a sentence of life without parole for a shooting committed by a friend when Henry was only 16 years old
Henry Hill was 16 when he was charged for his involvement in a shooting that took place in a Michigan park. In 1980, Henry and a few friends went to a park to confront three other boys they had been feuding with previously. Henry fired several shots in the air with a handgun to scare off other people in the park, but never fired his gun at the victim. Despite the fact that all four bullets found in the victim’s body were characteristic of the weapon used by one of Henry’s co-defendants, Henry was still charged with 1st degree murder for aiding and abetting.
After his arrest, Henry was evaluated and found to have the academic ability of a third grader, and the mental maturity of a 9-year-old. The doctor who did his evaluation recommended that Henry remain under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court. Based on the charge against him, Henry stood trial as an adult. The trial court had no discretion to consider Henry’s juvenile status, mental age or maturity. Michigan law required that the trial court charge and punish Henry as if he were an adult and sentence him as such to the mandatory adult sentence of life imprisonment. Because of the nature of the offense, the Michigan Parole Board has no jurisdiction to consider Henry for parole. Henry is now 45 years old and has spent nearly 30 years—nearly two-thirds of his life—behind bars. He has exhausted all prison educational programs and resources available to him.
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.