Michigan Juvenile ‘Lifers’ Continue To Wait For Resentencing

What Is A Juvenile Lifer?

A juvenile lifer is a person under the age of 17 who was tried and convicted as an adult for a serious crime in which they were sentenced to a mandatory life term in prison. The United States is the only country in the world which allows for children to be put away for life without the possibility of parole. Here in the state of Michigan, there are more such cases than anywhere else in the country except for the state of Pennsylvania. There have been just over 350 cases of juvenile’s sentenced to mandatory life without the chance of parole in the state of Michigan. There were around 2,300 juvenile lifer cases across the United States as a whole.

The Supreme Court’s Decision Regarding Mandatory Life Terms For Juveniles:

In January of 2016, the United States Supreme Court held that mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders was unconstitutional, and that this rule would be applied retroactively to all juvenile lifer cases. This meant that cases across 29 states would be required to be resentenced under new guidelines. In the state of Michigan that meant that 354 juvenile lifers would be up for review to be resentenced. The Supreme Court in its decision stated that a life sentence for a juvenile should be only be for “the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption.” The Supreme Court based its decision on the research and belief that a juvenile’s immaturity and lack of the same ability to appreciate and understand consequences was reason enough to rule mandatory life sentences for juveniles unconstitutional. Prosecutors had until July 2016 to submit recommendations for resentencing for the juvenile lifers in Michigan. Prosecutors recommended that approximately 2/3 of the juvenile lifers be resentenced to the same life without parole sentence that they already had. The remaining 1/3 of cases were prioritized to be brought back into court for resentencing. The other 2/3 of juvenile lifer cases were deprioritized and their possible path to freedom was slowed significantly.

How Much Progress Has Been Made?

As of this writing, some four years after the Supreme Court ruling, there have been about 190 juvenile lifers who have been resentenced. With the exception of about 15 or so cases so far, all of the juvenile lifers have been given reduced sentences and a chance for parole. Judges are required to look at a number of factors in determining the juvenile lifers’ new sentences. A judge is required to take into account the offender’s age and maturity at the time of the crime. A judge must also consider the family, home environment, the circumstances of the offense, and what type of involvement they had in the crime committed. The offender’s behavior while in prison and ability for rehabilitation are also important factors for a judge to consider. Judges have the ability to resentence offenders from a minimum of 25 years to a maximum of 60 years. A judge can also resentence the offender to life without parole again if their case meets the criteria necessary. We have barely made it halfway through the eligible cases for juvenile lifers in these last four years. A lot of work still remains.

What About The Remaining Cases?

The remaining cases will be heard when their time comes for a judge to hear arguments for resentencing. As stated before, certain cases were prioritized due to prosecutors agreeing that the offenders in those cases should be resentenced to something other than life without parole. It seems as if the remaining cases will be the most contested cases, and as such, will require the biggest fight. Each county across the state of Michigan treats cases differently, and juvenile lifer cases are among the most contested. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone that has any questions relating to a juvenile lifer or about a pending juvenile case. We have over 100 years of combined experience at our disposal to help answer any and all your questions. We are not a general practice law firm. At Grabel & Associates we lead the fight for justice from the front, and we do it by specifically focusing on the area of criminal defense. It’s all we do, and we do it best. Feel free to call us at our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896 or contact us online.

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