In a significant case for juvenile rights, a recent juvenile law case from the Eastern District of Michigan has allowed the question of parole for juvenile offenders who commit murder to move forward.
Specifically, Hill v. Snyder raises the question of whether it’s a violation of a juvenile’s rights – i.e. is it cruel and unusual punishment – for a child aged 14-18 to received a life sentence without the issue of parole for a homicide offense. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court found that it was “cruel and unusual” punishment for juveniles convicted on non-homicide offenses to receive a sentence of without the possibility of parole, leaving open the question of the constitutionality of denying parole to those convicted of murder.
Here, one of nine juveniles sentenced to life without parole – Keith Maxey – was part of a drug deal that went bad. He did not shoot any of the victims and did not possess a weapon himself. In fact, he had left the scene when the shooting occurred. However, Maxey was convicted on an aiding and abetting theory and sentenced to life without parole.
The ruling questions whether a statute automatically denying parole to juveniles convicted of homicide is cruel and unusual.
As stated by a representative of the ACLU about the recent ruling, “[T]he ruling allows us to prove what many already know – sentencing children to die is prison without giving them an opportunity for parole is inhumane, unfair and unconstitutional. By ignoring a child’s potential for rehabilitation and denying judges and juries any discretion, the state doles out unforgiving sentences that violate basic fairness and human rights principle. The decision is the first step toward correcting this fundamental injustice.”
As a Michigan juvenile crimes defense lawyer, I agree. Youthful offenders deserve an opportunity for rehabilitation – not to be thrown in jail without possibility of parole. This case may have a significant impact on juvenile crime sentences throughout the country.
If you or your teenager has been charged with any Michigan criminal offense, it is imperative to contact an aggressive Michigan juvenile defense attorney immediately to protect your child’s future. For more information contact the experienced juvenile defense lawyers at the law offices of Grabel & Associates for immediate assistance.