Tuesday, November 12, 2019
US flag

Md. to re-examine life sentences for juveniles

Officials in the Maryland Office of the Public Defender are trying to make sure convicts who are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed as juveniles receive a resentencing hearing pursuant to a US Supreme Court ruling, the Daily Record reports.

In a 2010 case, known as Graham v Florida, the Supreme Court banned life sentences that included no “meaningful opportunity” for release in cases where juveniles were convicted of crimes that didn’t involve homicide.

And in a 2012 ruling in the case of Miller v Alabama, the Supreme Court barred “mandatory” life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder. They can still be sentenced to life, as long as judges consider criteria such as the defendant’s maturity and the nature of the crimes before they impose a life sentence.

These decisions are making their way through other criminal courts across the country at this time, so no new life sentences are being handed out that don’t comply with the guidelines those two rulings established. But because the rulings represented a far-reaching and profound change to the way juveniles had to be sentenced, many state legislatures and courts have been applying the guidelines retroactively.

Since the juvenile offenders have already been sentenced, though, they have to be brought back before a judge who can then apply the new guidelines and reconsider the sentencing in their cases in accordance with the new interpretation of the Eighth Amendment.

Defense attorneys are standing up for their clients, but the shear volume of juveniles who received life sentences but were represented by a public defender has caused a bit of a backlog, as states try to ensure none of the sentences handed out in the past violated the offenders’ Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

“The patent unfairness of depriving indistinguishable juvenile offenders of their liberty for the rest of their lives, based solely on when their cases were decided, weighs heavily in favor of applying the Supreme Court’s decision … retroactively,” Justice Barbara Pariente of the Florida Supreme Court was quoted as writing in a unanimous opinion of that court that ordered a lower court to consider a new sentence for a person convicted of murder and serving a life term.

The new guidelines are “definitely a victory for child advocates who’ve been asking to get the Graham decision implemented in a widespread fashion,” CBS News quoted a Florida public defender as saying.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Mercury makes a transit; next in 2032

A transit of Mercury occurred today and was visible from the US, provided you had sunny skies. It was one of longest possible transits.

On the Naperville BWW racist incident

A racist incident at a Naperville, IL, sports bar indicates that the threads of racism are strong, perhaps as strong as ever.

IL bill could excuse absences to vote

A proposed law in IL could give students up to two hours during the school day so they could vote in the upcoming election.

Loan forgiveness gains some bipartisan support

One Republican from GA, who used to work under Betsy DeVos at the US Education Dept, offers a plan to forgive some student loan debt.

A band teacher is IL Teacher of the Year

IL named a band teacher the 2020 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 19. He individualizes music instruction and shares his work with 1000s.

‘Little Shop of Horrors’ bookends Halloween

Several high schools have decided to add a little spook to their musical stages in this season of Halloween. Music makes it happen.

New IL law ensures inclusion of LGBTQ+

A law will take effect next school year in IL that will require students to study LGBTQ history as part of the social studies curriculum.

MoCo doubles down on summer learning loss

Research is at least equivocal about summer learning loss, but maybe there's something to a new plan in Montgomery County, Md.

Downers North lights up the gym for Beth

Ongoing fundraising drives for a Downers Grove N. volleyball player killed by an intoxicated driver in Feb. are going strong in this western suburb.

High-payroll Yankees don’t make World Series

The World Series begins Tuesday, but some of the playoff games can teach us valuable things about youth sports, investment, etc.

Chicago teacher strike enters calendar week 2

Chicago teachers strike for the 3rd day Monday; the union wants smaller class sizes and support for paraprofessionals.