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6th Circuit puts parole hearings for juvenile lifers on hold

Attorney General Bill Schuette
(courtesy Michigan Attorney General's office)
Mich. Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette says the Supreme Court ruling should not apply retroactively.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has delayed an order that Michigan make a plan to hold parole hearings for prisoners sentenced as juveniles to life in prison for murder.

A federal judge ruled last month that Michigan is taking too long to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court decision. It said automatic life without parole for juveniles is “cruel and unusual punishment.”  

Deborah LaBelle is the attorney representing a group of juvenile lifers who sued the state. She says the Sixth Circuit decision is a disappointment.

“Anyone who’s concerned about the Constitution and some basic moral rights is concerned that the court has allowed some ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ to continue while they review the matter,” LaBelle said.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked for the stay.

“We talk to the families of crime victims,” said Schuette’s spokeswoman Joy Yearout, “including many of the families of the people who were murdered by these teenagers 10, 20 or even 30 years ago, and many of these families have been traumatized by the fact that there was a district court ruling that the perpetrators who killed their loved ones should be eligible for parole.”

Schuette wants the ruling applied only to current and future cases, but not retroactively.

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