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U.S. judge: All Michigan juvenile lifers eligible for parole

Judge O'Meara

DETROIT ( - A federal district court judge ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Miller v. Alabama/Jackson v. Hobbs, which made mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences unconstitutional in June of 2012, is retroactive and applies to all of Michigan’s juvenile lifers, those sentenced to death in prison while they were under the age of 18.
The decision means all juvenile lifers are now eligible for parole, says Deborah LaBelle, attorney for the plaintiffs, calling it a significant victory.
According to varying sources, there are from 362 to 371 juvenile lifers in Michigan’s prison system, 70 percent of them prisoners of color. Many have spent decades behind bars. Michigan has the second highest number of juvenile lifers among the states. Before the Miller decision, the U.S. was the only country in the world that allowed juvenile life without parole.
“Indeed, if ever there was a legal rule that should—as a matter of law and morality—be given retroactive effect, it is the rule announced in Miller,” said Judge O’Meara, ruling in Hill v. Snyder. “To hold otherwise would allow the state to impose unconstitutional punishment on some persons but not others, an intolerable miscarriage of justice.”
Although Hill v. Snyder is not a class action case, involving just 13 named plaintiffs, Judge O’Meara extended the reach of his ruling, setting precedent for all Michigan juvenile lifers.
Alright everyone ready? This is disgusting. The Honorable John Corbett O’Meara was appointed to the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, in 1994. Prior to his appointment, he was a partner at the firm of Dickinson, Wright, Moon, VanDusen & Freeman of Detroit, Michigan. He was actively engaged in the practice of law since 1962, specializing in employment law litigation, representing management clients.
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 JUSTICE ACT OF 1964, AS AMENDED, 18 U.S.C. §3006A
Judge O’Meara said he did not have jurisdiction to grant the plaintiffs’ request for re-sentencing. But he ruled, “The court declares M.C.L. 791.234(6) [Michigan life without parole statute] unconstitutional as it applies to these Plaintiffs . . . As a result, Plaintiffs will be eligible and considered for parole. It remains to be determined how that process will work and what procedures should be in place to ensure that Plaintiffs are fairly considered for parole.”MORE


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