Michigan Court of Appeals Rules Juvenile Mandatory Life Sentence for First-Degree Murder Unconstitutional, However Decision Not Retroactive

It was recently determined by the Michigan Court of Appeals that the mandatory life sentence handed out to juveniles convicted of first-degree murder is unconstitutional. This development unfolded following the case of Miller v. Alabama, a case which held that sentencing juveniles to life in prison is essentially cruel and unusual punishment, and violates the Eighth Amendment. However, there approximately 350 individuals currently serving life sentences for murders which were committed as juveniles in the state of Michigan; as of now, it looks like those who are already imprisoned will serve the full sentence.

Approximately two weeks ago, the state of Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that 21-year-old Raymond Carp who was convicted of stabbing a woman to death in 2006 when he was 15 years old must serve out his sentence of life in prison. Carp requested a hearing for new sentencing after Miller v. Alabama, however the judges rejected his request.

Miller v. Alabama was a case in Alabama in which it was found that juveniles are not fully developed intellectually and less mature than adults, and therefore less culpable than adults in the case of serious criminal offenses such as murder. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the argument in this case, saying that lower courts must take into consideration factors such as maturity and age when juveniles are accused of murder.

In the case of People v. Carp, the life sentence was upheld after the Court stated that Miller v. Alabama is not a substantive rule change, but a procedural rule change. The Court determined that the rule change does not meet criteria which would allow it to be retroactive. Ultimately, under Michigan law the change does not apply to offenders such as Carp who have exhausted direct appeals, but applies going forward. Some attorneys predict that Carp’s case will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Michigan criminal appeals attorneys agree that sentencing a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder or any offense is extremely harsh punishment. Essentially, young people who are not fully developed mentally or mature have their entire lives and futures taken away from them.


If you have been convicted of a criminal offense, consult with an experienced Michigan criminal appeals lawyer who believes in “second chances” and who will work aggressively on your behalf.