Muskegon County Judge Rules No-Parole Sentence Decision for ‘Juvenile Lifer’ Will Have to Wait

Amy Lee Black has been imprisoned since 1991 for her involvement in murdering then 34-year-old Dave VanBogelen in December of 1990. Black, who was then 16 years old, allegedly bludgeoned the victim during a robbery; her 19-year-old boyfriend at the time was said to have stabbed VanBogelen to death after Black bludgeoned him. She is considered a ‘juvenile lifer,’ and is seeking to get relief from her no-parole sentence based on a June 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision which says that mandatory life without parole sentences applied in cases involving juveniles is unconstitutional. The problem now is whether the decision should be retroactive.

Last November, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court was not applicable to cases which were already decided. The Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office wants Muskegon County 14th Circuit Judge Timothy G. Hicks to deny Black’s motion for a new sentence based on the fact that in Michigan, the appeals court precedent is binding. However, the decision made by the state appeals court has now been appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. It hasn’t yet been decided by the Court whether the appeal will be heard.

Ultimately, Judge Hicks has come to the conclusion that Black’s motion for relief can wait until the state’s high court determines whether the June 2012 decision should be retroactive.

This young woman was only 16 years old when she was sentenced to life in prison without parole; opinions on whether she should be able to appeal her sentence understandably differ between the victim’s family members and her own family. However, Michigan post-conviction attorneys understand that there are circumstances in which individuals face sentences which are extremely harsh, particularly in the case of juveniles who ultimately lose their entire future to sit in a prison cell.

If you or a loved one feel that you have been wrongly convicted or sentenced above and beyond what you believe to be normal for the circumstances, consult with an experienced and capable Michigan criminal appeals lawyer today.

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