The U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that its 2012 ban on automatic life sentences without parole for those who committed crimes as juveniles must be applied retroactively. The ruling means more than 350 Michigan prisoners sentenced for crimes committed when they were 16 or younger may be considered for parole.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette had filed a brief opposing retroactivity.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the automatic life sentences with no chance of parole represented cruel and unusual punishment for juveniles because their brains are not fully developed. At that time, the court did not spell whether the ruling would be applied to prisoners already sentenced.
The Michigan Supreme Court held in 2014 that the sentences in the earlier cases did not need to be re-examined. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively overturns that.
In the U.S. high court’s decision, Montgomery v. Louisiana, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, ”Allowing those offenders to be considered for parole ensures that juveniles whose crimes reflected only transient immaturity — and who have since matured — will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”