“Michigan’s laws that send juveniles who were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison are unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, ordering that the 350 juvenile lifers in the state have a chance at parole.
In issuing his ruling, Judge John Corbett O’Meara noted that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that juveniles can’t be treated as adults, and as such, can’t be sentenced as adults to life behind bars.
“Indeed, if there ever was a legal rule that should, as a matter of law and morality be given retroactive effect, it is the rule announced (by the U.S. Supreme Court),” O’Meara wrote. “To hold otherwise would allow the state to impose unconstitutional punishment on some persons but not on others, an intolerable miscarriage of justice.”
“A spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said his office is reviewing the decision and considering options for appeal.
“The Michigan Court of Appeals has already concluded that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miller is not retroactive,” spokeswoman Joy Yearout said. “Attorney General Schuette agrees, and he will continue to fight for crime victims and their families, who should not be forced to relive these horrific crimes at parole hearings.”
O’Meara’s ruling gives ammunition to hundreds of defense attorneys statewide who are challenging the court of appeals decision and are preparing to take their cases to circuit courts. Attorney Robyn Frankel, who is representing a 37-year-old woman who was convicted of murder at age 17, is filing a motion in Oakland County Circuit Court in February, asking for a re-sentencing.