Thursday, March 6, 2014

Life Sentences for Juvenile Offenses? Briefs by High School Kids and UW Team

In 2012 the Supreme Court held that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a juvenile offender violates the 8th amendment. Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 Google Scholar. But what about people already servicing life sentences for crimes committed when they were juveniles? Should Miller be applied retroactively?

The Michigan Supreme Court is now considering the cases of three  people with life sentences for crimes committed when they were 14 and 16.

The offenders are being supported by unusual amici: kids from a Catholic high school in Ann Arbor. Matilyn Sarosi, who is 16 herself,  prepared an amicus brief. She also spoke to her classmates and wrote letters to their parents, eventually getting 452 students to sign on in support. See Ann Arbor Teen's Legal Brief: Juvenile Lifers Deserve a 2nd Chance, Detroit Free Press, Feb. 17, 2014; High Schooler Submits Amicus Brief in Juvenile-Lifer Case to Michigan Supreme Court, ABA J. (online), Feb. 20, 2014.

The brief argues from the students' personal experience of adolescent impulsiveness, scientific research on juvenile development, and their Catholic faith in the potential for redemption. The cases (People v. Carp, People v. Davis, and People v. Eliason) are being argued today. Links to other briefs are here.

Here in Washington, Prof. Kim Ambrose and law student Dylan Tessier represented a young man who was sentenced to 1,111 months (don't want to do the arithmetic? it's 92 1/2 years) for a crime he committed when he was a juvenile—effectively a life sentence. Their brief is here. Division II remanded to the trial court. In re Personal Restraint Petition of Guadalupe Solis-Diaz (2012)(unpublished). This week, the trial judge again imposed the same sentence. 92-Year Sentence Remains for Former Centralia Gang Shooter, Chronicle (Lewis County), March 4, 2014.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rick Wershe is currently serving a life prison sentence in the Michigan Department of Corrections for a single (non-violent 1st offense) drug possession conviction from January 1988. When he was arrested he was only 17 years old.