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Michigan Court Says U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Outlawing Juvenile LWOP Doesn’t “Retroactively” Apply to State’s Current Prisoners

Last, week a Michigan appeals court ruled that the decision in Alabama v. Miller in which the Supreme Court of the United States declared mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles to be unconstitutional — does not retroactively apply to individuals in the state convicted of murder as juveniles.

More than 350 prisoners convicted of murder as juveniles in Michigan are currently serving life sentences without parole. The numbers, according to juvenile advocacy group Second Chances 4 Youth, are the second highest in the nation, with only Pennsylvania housing more juvenile lifers.

The decision was issued by a three-judge panel, almost a month after the court heard oral arguments regarding the retroactive application of the Alabama v. Miller decision within the state. 

Judges E. Thomas Fitzgerald, Michael Talbot and William Whitbeck issued an opinion stating that the impact of potential appeals would be too taxing considering the state’s limited court resources.

“We must, we believe, provide guidance to these trial courts to assure a consistency of approach until the Legislature can respond by reworking the sentencing scheme for juveniles in Michigan,” the opinion reads. “But we find it unacceptable in the interim to simply remand cases to trial courts for re-sentencing.”

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