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Michigan Appeals Court could determine resentencing of juvenile lifers

Michigan Court of Appeals
Mike Russell
Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Court of Appeals began hearing arguments Tuesday on a case that could determine the fate of Michigan’s “juvenile lifers.”

The case comes in the wake of a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June determining  that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for minors constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

MLive’s Jonathan Oosting has more:

Attorney Patricia Selby Tuesday asked the appeals court to order resentencing for her client, Raymond Carp, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2006 stabbing of 43-year-old MaryAnn McNeely in St. Clair County. Defense attorneys are expected to request hundreds of resentencing hearings in coming months, and judges around the state are looking to the Court of Appeals for guidance.

The case could determine whether or not the Supreme Court ruling applies retroactively to the nearly 360 Michigan prisoners condemned to life sentences while they were minors.

Selby argues that the Supreme Court opinion requires states to revisit these older cases, MPRN’s Jake Neher reports.

“We think because this involves something as significant as the 8th Amendment, that it should apply, and that it’s basically telling the courts they have to take a whole new look at people in Mr.Carp’s position.”

Oosting notes that lower courts will be looking for guidance on how to sentence minors convicted of violent crimes.

Michigan law automatically treats 17-year-olds as adults and allows prosecutors to do the same for even younger juveniles accused of violent crimes. It also requires mandatory life sentences without parole for certain crimes. The Supreme Court ruling did not explicitly prohibit life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles. Rather, it invalidated mandatory schemes and—after considering mitigating factors—suggested such sentences should be rare. Noting this distinction, the attorney general's office suggested circuit court judges expand post-trial hearings and be given authority to decide between two sentencing options: Life sentences without the possibility of parole or life sentences with the possibility of parole.

Attorney General Bill Schuette says resentencing could cause pain to victims’ families.

Though uncomfortable with the idea of legislating from the bench,  presiding Judge Michael Talbot says he might have to if the Legislature does not move on this issue, reports Neher.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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