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Friday, July 11, 2014

350 Michigan Juvenile Lifers Will Remain in Prison

Juvenile Lifer Raymond Carp
In 2012, the SCOTUS ruled in Miller v Alabama that state laws providing for life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional.  Michigan is believed to have the most juvenile lifers in the nation; 350 prisoners convicted of life sentences when they were juveniles, all waiting to die in prison.

The juvenile lifer issue has become a hot-button topic for both the appellate courts and the legislature here in Michigan.  The consolidated cases decided this week by the Michigan Supreme Court, known as People v Carp, et al, squarely
addressed the narrow issue of whether the SCOTUS ruling in Miller should be applied retroactively.

If Miller's ban on mandatory life sentences for juveniles is applied retroactively, then the 350 juvenile lifers in MDOC prisons would have a shot at parole.  The retroactive application of Miller has also been the focus of cases in federal courts in Michigan, with one federal judge in Detroit last year ordering the MDOC to come up with a plan to address parole for this group of convicts.

Of course this comes as horrible news to people like Barbara Hernandez, doing a life sentence for her ancillary role in a 1991 murder right here in Pontiac, MI.  On the other hand, Attorney General Bill Schuette, whose office argued the case for the State of Michigan, hailed the decision as a victory for the families of murder victims.

No doubt, the attorneys for the three defendants in the consolidated cases will now petition to the SCOTUS for further appellate review, seeking clarification as to the retroactivity of Miller.  The remaining 350 juvenile lifers will continue to sit on the edge of their stainless steel racks awaiting final decision on their fate.

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