In November it was announced the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was filing suit against the state of Michigan over the state’s unclear standards regarding denial of parole to juvenile lifers. In 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional. In January of 2016, the Supreme Court ruled those juveniles sentenced to life without parole prior to the 2012 ruling must have an opportunity to argue they should be released from prison; in other words, the 2012 ruling must be applied retroactively. Ultimately, three states – including Michigan – decided to go against the ruling.
ACLU of Michigan Deputy Legal Director Daniel Korobkin said in news reports that in terms of abiding by the Supreme Court’s decision, Michigan was being stubborn and still bent on imposing a life without parole sentence on most teenagers, a sentence that for juveniles is “absolutely” unconstitutional.
Sadly, there are more people who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles in Michigan than any other state with the exception of Pennsylvania. For minors or juveniles, 39 states have abolished life sentences without parole. Any person in the state of Michigan, even children, are still sentenced to life without parole if found guilty of the crime of first-degree murder.