SCOTUS “juvenile lifer” decision would not apply to past cases under Senate bill

Michigan Public Radio Network

Legislation to overhaul Michigan’s juvenile lifer law would not apply to inmates already sentenced to life without parole as teenagers. The bills were adopted Tuesday by the state Senate Judiciary Committee. The legislation is required because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down automatic life-without-parole sentences for juveniles.

Jonathan Sacks is with the State Appellate Defenders Office. He said not every inmate sentenced to life without parole as a teenager deserves to be released. But he said some of them should have a chance at parole.

“That’s not to say they didn’t make the ultimate decision to be there. Some of the ones who didn’t pull the trigger might be just as guilty, but some of the ones truly were there because of peer pressure and should get a term-of-years sentence for that level of participation and that intent,” Sacks said.

The Senate bill said the law will apply retroactively only if a court orders it. A federal judge is watching Michigan’s efforts to comply with the ruling.

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