The Michigan Court of Appeals hears arguments this week on how the state should comply with a US Supreme Court decision on so-called juvenile lifers. It struck down sentences of automatic life without parole for juveniles convicted of murder.
The appeals court is asking several questions: Does the US Supreme Court decision in Miller versus Alabama apply retroactively? That is, is everyone in a Michigan prison sentenced to life without parole as a juvenile entitled to a new sentence? Would it be sufficient to simply re-sentence juvenile lifers so they have a shot at parole one day? The American Civil Liberties Union says every juvenile lifer deserves to have a judge take into account their life circumstances – their role in the murder, whether they were coerced, or if they’re victims of abuse or neglect. Attorney General Bill Schuette says the decision should only apply going forward, and not to cases where a juvenile was already sentenced. He says the families of victims were promised certainty and the state should not take that away.