Saturday, February 2, 2013

U.S. District Court: Miller v. Alabama Retroactive

U.S. District Judge John Corbett O'Meara of Michigan ruled this week that Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory juvenile life without parole, is retroactive.

The order is contrary to a state appeals court ruling last fall that said retroactivity would not apply for most people already behind bars, reported the Detroit News.

The order offers an opportunity at freedom for inmates who challenged the constitutionality of a state law prohibiting the Michigan Parole Board from considering parole for juvenile lifers. The state has more than 350 such prisoners.

O'Meara said the state law is unconstitutional for inmates who received mandatory life sentences for first-degree murder when they were under the age of 18.

"As a result, plaintiffs will be eligible and considered for parole," O'Meara wrote.

"It remains to be determined how that process will work and what procedures should be in place to ensure that plaintiffs are fairly considered for parole."

Judge O'Meara ruled that inmates serving no-parole sentences must receive a "fair and meaningful" chance at leaving prison, according to the News.

Pennsylvania has more people serving life without parole for offenses committed as juveniles than any other state.  The issue is currently pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  The decisions in Commonwealth v. Batts and Commonwealth v. Cunningham could impact as many as 500 sentences.

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