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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Do Teen-Aged Murderers Deserve a Second Chance?

Barbara Hernandez
Barbara Hernandez was convicted in 1991 of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison; she was sixteen years old.  The facts adduced at her trial were that she coaxed her victim, a 28-year old auto mechanic, into a vacant crack-house in Pontiac where her boyfriend, or pimp, depending on who you believe, stabbed him 25-times. 

The motive: robbery to obtain funds to fuel said boy friend's raging crack habit. Sympathy rating on scale of one to five; zero.

More than 20-years after her capital conviction, views on the Hernandez case remain polarizing.  For example, in an AP article detailing the murder, the prosecutor that tried Hernandez here in he Oakland County Circuit Court recently reflected on the case she submitted to the jury.

During her years with the Oakland County Prosecutor, Donna Pendergast, now an Assistant Attorney General, tried many high profile murders.  She had this to say about Hernandez:
Contrary to her assertion that she's cowering around the corner under some sort of influence of her boyfriend, quite the contrary. She's right in the mix and the evidence shows that.  At 16 years old, when you're involved with a scheme of that (kind of) deadly ramifications, you know what you're doing.  
On the other hand, one of the now-retired investigators who took a statement from Hernandez soon after the incident, recently claimed that he no longer recalls her saying that she may have held the victim; he told the AP:  "why I testified to that; who knows?"

Although the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided in Miller v Alabama that mandatory juvenile lifer laws violate the 8th Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, critical aspects on the application of this decision were not addressed by the SCOTUS.  For example, recent cases percolating through the appellate courts here in Michigan address whether SCOTUS' Miller decision should be applied retroactively.

In People v Carp, the Michigan Court of Appeals recently held that the SCOTUS' Eighth Amendment ruling did not apply retroactively.  In doing so, Judge Michael J. Talbot conducted a tour de force of juvenile and capital sentencing jurisprudence, mandating lower courts with pending cases to take a juvenile offender's tender years into account; exhorting the legislature to address this perceived gap in our justice system; but nevertheless refusing to retroactively apply Miller on a collateral review.

Of course, Raymond Carp's attorneys have applied for further appellate review to the Michigan Supreme Court.  The briefs are in, with the Michigan Attorney General having just filed a brief in opposition earlier this month; and [update] an op-ed piece in the Detroit News.

Juvenile lifers recently received a big boost by a decision of United States District Court Judge John O'Meara who ruled that the SCOTUS Miller decision was retroactive for the 350 lifers convicted as juveniles and that prisoners so convicted deserved a chance at parole.

Convicts in Barbara Hernandez's position await the outcome of this decision while their lives burn-down like a candle.  Michigan's oldest juvenile lifer is 68; convicted of murder in 1962.

We here at the Law Blogger have to wonder: do murdering teens deserve a second chance in life?

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1 Comments:

Blogger HawksEye said...

A obstinate man will have his way to his own harm.
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June 13, 2013 at 7:17 AM 

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