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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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Friday, February 5, 2016

Prohibition of Juvenile Life Sentences Applies Retroactively

Juvenile lifer Ray Carp
A few years ago, we tracked the Miller v Alabama case as it went to the SCOTUS to decide whether juveniles could be given life sentences. The Court said such sentences were unconstitutional but did not address whether the decision applied retroactively; i.e. to inmates long-ago convicted when they were juveniles but who still remain incarcerated several decades later.

The SCOTUS decision from last month in Montgomery v Louisiana held that the ban against life sentences for convicted juveniles does apply retroactively and in dicta, urges the states that have refused to release such convicts to parole them as soon as possible. Michigan, along with 5 other states, has refused to apply the Miller ruling retroactively, keeping all of their juvenile lifers locked-up.

A close read of the 6-3 opinion in Montgomery shows that the SCOTUS has not only retroactively applied the juvenile lifer ban to all past state and federal sentences, it also strengthened its ruling in Miller.  The legal scholar Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSBlog puts it this way:
The new decision does make Miller retroactive to cases that were final before the date of that ruling — June 25, 2012.  But it also appears to go beyond the actual scope of the Miller ruling, by strengthening the chance that a newly convicted juvenile will be able to show, at the time of sentencing, that he is not beyond rehabilitation to become a law-abiding individual.  Life without parole, the Court declared, is always unconstitutional for a juvenile unless he or she is found to be “irreparably corrupt” or “permanently incorrigible.”
The Michigan Attorney General has actively resisted applying the juvenile lifer ban retroactively. The AG asserts that the sentences were constitutional when imposed and that the focus should be on the crime victims, not the murderers.

There are approximately 350 persons in Michigan that are in a position to be re-sentenced or paroled. Among them is Raymond Carp, who perhaps has the most questionable conviction of this select group. Carp was the subject of one of our 2014 posts; his conviction, although it withstood a lengthily and withering appeal, arguably was a result of "guilt-by-association"; his co-defendant was a much older mastermind of the murder in which he was entangled.

Now, Carp, along with the other juvenile lifers here in Michigan actually stand a chance at parole.

Post #522

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