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Federal judge says hundreds of Michigan's juvenile lifers should be eligible for parole

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal judge says 363 inmates in Michigan prisons sentenced to life without parole as juveniles should get parole hearings.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that laws like Michigan’s that automatically send some juveniles to prison for life with no chance of parole are “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Attorney General Bill Schuette has been trying to limit the scope of the ruling to five inmates who challenged their sentences and to all future cases. He says families of murder victims deserved the certainty of knowing those sentences would stand.

The American Civil Liberties Union says an unconstitutional law is unconstitutional no matter who it’s applied to. The ACLU says every juvenile lifer should get a parole hearing.

The Legislature is also busy rewriting Michigan’s sentencing law to comply with the Supreme Court ruling.

Schuette issued a statement saying he “strongly disagrees” with the ruling.    

“It’s important to note that this is not a final order, nor does it require the State of Michigan to initiate any parole hearings at this time,” Schuette’s statement continued.

The Attorney General promises to file an appeal after a final order is entered in the case.

*Correction - an earlier version of this story said juvenile lifers will get resentencing hearings. The judge's ruling said the lifers should be eligible for parole, not new hearings. It has been corrected in the copy above.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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