Update: Michigan Supreme Court Rules on Miller v Alabama
Peter J. Johnson is a leading criminal defense attorney in Michigan who works to ensure the rights of his clients are always respected and to help his clients understand how laws affect ongoing or concluded court proceedings. At the Law Office of Peter J. Johnson, we believe that it is of the utmost importance that our clients are well-informed as to the impact that recent court decisions or legislation can have on their particular case.
With that in mind, here’s an update on a major decision out of the Michigan Supreme Court:
Miller v Alabama
In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole should no longer be considered when sentencing juvenile offenders. The Court held that such sentencing was unconstitutional in that it violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Court did not dictate whether this decision would apply retroactively; in other words, juvenile offenders already serving life sentences were not guaranteed a re-trial, leaving the matter up to the states.
Juvenile Offenders in Michigan
On July 8, 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court issued its decision in People v. Carp, a case dating back to 2006 in which a 15-year-old was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The challenge from the defendant was essentially framed as an appeal to ask the Michigan Supreme Court to take the Miller v Alabama case into mind. The Michigan Supreme Court, however, determined that Miller v Alabama does not apply retroactively, and thus cannot be considered in this type of appeal.
The issue is far from settled. A U.S. district judge has ordered parole hearings for juveniles sentenced to life before the Miller v Alabama ruling, but Michigan Attorney General Bill Shuette is currently appealing that decision. Michigan inmates will, therefore, need to wait for the dust to settle before any re-sentencings might occur.
The future of juvenile offenders in Michigan is unclear. While they can no longer be sentenced to life in prison, those who were sentenced before Miller v Alabama may end up having to serve their full sentences. Criminal defense attorneys in Michigan (and their clients) are all awaiting more news from the federal courts to see where this issue will go next.