Friday, November 8, 2013

Cases related to Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP) continue to shape an uncertain future

With the relatively recent US Supreme Court (USSC) decision that prohibits mandatory life without parole sentences for individuals who committed crimes while under the age of 18, a couple key issues are making their way through state courts, including: (1) are excessively long sentences given in lieu of JLWOP essentially a life sentence anyway?; and (2) can the ruling be applied retroactively, that is to individuals receiving a mandatory LWOP sentence prior to the Supreme Court ruling.

Some states are reconstructing their statutes and some cases are moving forward related to the first question, but the most recent ruling related to the second is from Pennsylvania in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that it could not be applied retroactively, specifically that the USSC ruling could not be used to require resentencing an individual who received a mandatory LWOP sentence for an offense committed at age 17, since that sentencing occurred prior to the ruling.

As we have seen with the prior US Supreme Court rulings and the activity and appeals around this issue, this surely is only a step along the way of defining what the USSC means for hundreds of youth serving JLWOP sentences, not only in Pennsylvania but other states as well.         by Jim Moeser

No comments: