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Michigan Attorney General appeals order for parole hearings for teen offenders serving life in jail

Official portrait
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (file photo)

Michigan’s Attorney General has decided to appeal a federal judge’s order that would require parole hearings for more than 300 juvenile offenders serving life sentences.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that sentencing juvenile offenders to automatic life without parole constituted “cruel and unusual” punishment. 

Last week, a federal judge ordered the state to allow approximately 350 inmates to seek parole under the high court ruling.  Otherwise, he’ll appoint a “special master” to handle the cases.

But the state of Michigan plans to appeal that order to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette believes the Supreme Court ruling only applies to future juvenile offenders not those already serving time.

In a written statement, Schuette says he wants to allow murder victims’ families to avoid reliving the pain of the crimes again.

“First-degree murder is a serious crime, and it carries with it serious consequences," said Schuette. "In every case where a juvenile is sentenced to life in prison, a victim was already sentenced to death - forever. The victim's family then grapples with the aftermath of post-traumatic stress, depression, unyielding grief, and visits to a grave."

A spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union says it’s time Michigan comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision and allow the parole process to begin. 

“The Supreme Court has already made clear that incarcerating children and throwing away the key without considering their age, maturity, circumstances, and level of involvement in the crime is cruel and unusual punishment,” says Rana Elmir, with the ACLU of Michigan, “It’s time that Michigan takes action to comply with the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent set almost two years ago. This ruling empowers the parole board to build a process that is meaningful and fair.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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