Earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear two juvenile lifer cases – two cases where the minors were convicted of crimes without the chance of parole. At issue is whether such a harsh punishment for juveniles constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Because the number of juveniles serving life sentences in Michigan is more than nearly every other state, the potential for a large impact on Michigan’s juvenile justice system is great.
Juveniles under investigation for or charged with any criminal activity in Michigan should seek the counsel of an experienced Michigan juvenile crimes attorney at once. Because potential penalties may affect your future, it is imperative to speak to an aggressive Michigan criminal defense attorney to protect your rights, fight to keep your case in juvenile court and keep you out of jail.
The announcement that the Supreme Court will hear Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama comes as a similar juvenile lifer case is currently in federal court in Michigan. It is unknown how the outcome will affect the Michigan case, but observers note that the Supreme Court is “potentially extending the reach of two recent decisions” concerning the treatment of juveniles in adult court.
These critical juvenile law decisions include:
Roper v. Simmons: The Supreme Court determined that the death penalty may not be given to minors 17 years and younger; and
Graham v. Florida: Minors cannot be sentenced to life without parole in non-homicide cases such as assault, robbery and drug charges.
The constitution provided the basis for these decisions. Specifically, the justices found that such severe penalties were in violation of a juveniles Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The new cases will evaluate if the law should extend to ban mandatory life in prison for juveniles, even where the juvenile was at the scene of the crime but did not commit the actual killing. Statistics reveal that as many as one-third of Michigan juvenile lifers are in jail for this type of crime.
The two pending case involve 14-year-old boys who were convicted of murder or involvement in a homicide. In Miller v. Alabama, the 14-year-old Miller and a 16-year-old were in a fight with a neighbor and set the neighbor’s home on fire. The neighbor died and the 16-year-old blamed Miller. Miller was sentenced to life in prison. In Jackson v. Hobbs, Jackson was involved in a robbery of a video store when another teenager shot and killed the store clerk. Although Jackson was not accused of killing the clerk or intending to commit murder, he was given a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
In both cases, as argued to the Supreme Court, life terms for children just 14-years old should be declared cruel and unusual punishment.
As a Michigan juvenile criminal defense attorney I will be watching these case closely. We need to recognize that juveniles are still young and need to be treated differently by the justice system than adults. Michigan is one of only a handful of states that has imposed life sentences on such youthful offenders.
For more information, or if you or your minor child has been accused of any juvenile crime, contact the dedicated Michigan criminal defense attorneys at Grabel & Associates for an immediate response.