The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Friday that a U.S. Supreme Court decision three years ago applies retroactively in the state, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
In 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court held in Miller v. Alabama that imposing an automatic life sentence without parole on someone younger than 18 was cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of the Eighth Amendment, reported the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.
Arkansas is now the 12th state to rule the Miller decision retroactive, according to the Juvenile Law Center — with potentially life-changing consequences for inmates in those states. Since March, Florida and Connecticut have also ruled the decision retroactive, said Emily Keller, staff attorney with the Juvenile Law Center.
In the remaining states, thousands of inmates who committed crimes before they were 18 do not have the same redress. More than 1,000 inmates are in the seven states, including Louisiana and Pennsylvania, that have held that the Miller decision does not apply retroactively, Keller said.
The Supreme Court has agreed to take up the question in the case Montgomery v. Louisiana. It will hear the case in its next term, which begins in October, with a ruling expected within a year, she said.
The Juvenile Law Center estimates that 2,100 people across the country, sentenced when younger than 18, are serving mandatory life sentences without parole.
In these cases, the Supreme Court did not forbid life sentences for juveniles. It ruled that judges must consider their youth and the nature of the crime before handing down life without parole.
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