The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in two expedited cases that relate to juvenile life without parole. The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decided in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles violated the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment.
According to the Legal Intelligencer, the court has agreed to hear the case of Commonwealth v. Cunningham, involving the 1999 arrest for murder and robbery of Ian Cunningham, who was 17 years old at the time. He was convicted of those crimes in 2003 and sentenced to life in prison.
Cunningham’s allocatur request has been pending for some time. According to the docket in the case, the court reserved judgment on the petition for appeal in October 2009 until it ruled in Commonwealth v. Batts. The Batts case was also on hold, however, while the court awaited the decision in Miller, which came down in June, reported the Intelligencer.
Last month, nearly three years after granting allocatur in the case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court scheduled Batts for oral argument. The court will hear arguments in both Batts and Cunningham in Philadelphia in September.
The Supreme Court directed the parties to address whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling in Miller retroactively applies to an inmate serving such a sentence when he has exhausted his direct appeal rights and is proceeding under the Post Conviction Relief Act.
The court further ordered the parties in Cunningham to address what, if Miller does have retroactive effect, the appropriate remedy under the PCRA is for a defendant sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a murder committed when the defendant was under the age of 18.
In the September 17, 2009, order granting allocatur in Batts, the Supreme Court asked the parties to address whether sentencing a 14-year-old to die in prison was unconstitutional in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Roper v. Simmons. Roper barred capital punishment for those who committed crimes when they were under the age of 18. The Batts allocatur grant also asked the parties to address whether the mandatory nature of the sentence violated Qu’Eed Batts’ rights under the Eighth and 14th amendments, reported the Intelligencer.
To read more: http://www.law.com/jsp/pa/PubArticlePA.jsp?id=1202566455869&et=editorial&bu=The%20Legal%20Intelligencer&cn=TLI_PM_LegalAlert_20120807&src=EMC-Email&pt=TLI%20PM%20Legal%20Alert&kw=Pa.%20Justices%20to%20Hear%20Cases%20of%20Juveniles&slreturn=20120708120117