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Monday, August 12, 2013

Judge Bans Mandatory Life Without Parole Sentences for Michigan Juveniles

by Efren Paredes, Jr.

U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O'Meara issued a court order on Monday, August 12, 2013 stating that all Michigan prisoners who were sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) when they were juveniles are now parole eligible.

In January the judge ruled that the state's law, MCL 791.234(6)(a), which denies juveniles sentenced to LWOP the opportunity for parole, is unconstitutional.

Subsequent to the ruling Attorney General Bill Schuette argued on behalf of the State of Michigan that the judge's order only applies prospectively to a handful of prisoners.

Judge O'Meara made clear in his ruling today that the state is wrong to believe it "may enforce the statute, which the court has been ruled unconstitutional." He added, "When a state statute has been ruled unconstitutional, state actors have an obligation to desist from enforcing that statute."

The ruling was applied retroactively to each and every prisoner who was sentenced to LWOP as a juvenile who had exhausted their court appeals previous to the court's order.

While the ruling strikes down MCL 791.234(6(a) as being unconstitutional, the legislature must still revise the statute to bring it into compliance with the court's order and Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct 2455 (2012).

The ruling is a positive step in the right direction and puts the legislature on notice about the need for serious reforms to the state's sentencing laws governing juveniles sentenced pursuant to MCL 791.234(6)(a).

It is imperative that citizens continue signing the online petition dedicated to ending mandatory LWOP sentences for juveniles and circulating it widely until the legislation is passed.

Citizens must continue sending a strong message to legislators that it is unconscionable to condemn juveniles to death-by-incarceration.

Readers are encouraged to print the petition flyer below and distribute it to as many people possible, to educate people about this campaign, and to share it with people who can feature it on blogs, web sites, social media and hand it out anywhere there are public gatherings.

Petition Link:

Petition Flyer Link: