Judge: Michigan’s Life without Parole Sentences Unconstitutional for All Youth

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
August 12, 2013 12:00 am

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DETROIT – In an order issued today, a federal judge made it clear that his previous ruling striking down Michigan’s law mandating life without parole sentences for individuals who commit certain crimes as children applies to all prisoners serving such a sentence and not just the individuals who brought the case.

In January, Judge John Corbett O’Meara correctly held that the Michigan statute requiring that children as young as 14 who are charged with certain felonies be tried as adults and, if convicted, sentenced without judicial discretion to life without parole violates the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Today, Judge O’Meara rejected the Michigan attorney general’s attempt to limit the ruling to a handful of youth, holding that meaningful parole hearings must be offered to the more than 360 youth previously sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In February of 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan filed the lawsuit on behalf of nine Michigan citizens who were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were children.

Judge O’Meara also stated that the court is now prepared to determine the reforms that are necessary to guarantee a full, fair and realistic opportunity for parole for these individuals.

The following can be attributed to Deborah LaBelle, lead attorney in Hill v Snyder:

“Today’s order makes clear that every person sentenced to life without parole for a crime committed when they were a child is now eligible for parole. As the court previously ruled ‘To hold otherwise would be to allow the state to impose unconstitutional punishment on some persons but not others, an intolerable miscarriage of justice.’”

A copy of today’s order is available here.

Judge O’Meara’s original ruling is available here.

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