U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Louisiana Inmate’s Appeal of Life Prison Sentence

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear George Toca’s appeal of a life prison sentence without parole he was given when he was just 17 years old; that was 30 years ago. Toca was found guilty of killing a friend during a botched robbery, although the killing was said to be accidental.

At issue is a ruling the U.S. Supreme Court made two years ago, which banned those who were under the age of 18 from being sentenced to life without parole. The court determined in 2012 that such a sentence for juveniles was “cruel and unusual punishment.” Now, the court will decide whether to apply the rule to Toca’s case retroactively.

Toca has maintained his innocence, and another person has claimed responsibility in the killing; regardless, innocence is not the issue before the court. Other state supreme courts, including those in Michigan, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania, have refused requests for resentencing finding the 2012 rule procedural.

While Toca’s attorney maintain their client’s innocence in the killing of Eric Batiste, the 2012 decision made by the Supreme Court did not mean that inmates should be released, but that they have the opportunity to seek parole. A ruling in the case, Toca v. Louisiana, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-6381 is due by the end of June 2015.

In June of 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that in the case of juveniles convicted of homicide, the death penalty or a sentence of life without parole were unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.

While Toca is appealing the “without the possibility of parole” portion of his sentence, many people are wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit, or sentenced in a way that is overly harsh in comparison to the crime committed. Those found guilty of a criminal offense such as homicide, robbery, carjacking, or even sexual assault or a drug crime may wish to appeal their conviction or sentence. However, it is important to note that the appeals process is not always successful, and in fact rarely changes the outcome.

In order to reach the results you hope for in appealing a conviction or sentence, it is vital to work with a highly skilled and experienced Michigan criminal appeals lawyer with a proven track record for success in the appeals process.

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