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Bill to end automatic life sentences for juveniles does not include re-sentencing

Morgue File

People serving mandatory life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles would not get a chance at re-sentencing, under a bill approved today by the state Senate.

It’s been more than a year since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled automatic life sentences without parole for minors cruel and unusual. This legislation would bring the state in compliance with that decision.

But state Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) says the state should hold re-sentencing hearings for those offenders. He says it’s important for judges to consider the details of each case.

“We have a number of individuals who continue to languish in the Michigan Department of Corrections who, in fact, did not kill, but perhaps were an accomplice to a party or to a crime that, in fact, resulted in someone’s murder,” Johnson said.

“I understand my colleagues’ feelings about wanted to go retroactive,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Rick Jones (R-Eaton Rapids), adding “I would suggest that would best be handled in another bill.”

Jones says he’s open to exploring whether the ruling should apply to people already behind bars, but Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) says he does not have any interest in revisiting the issue.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says it would be unfair to victims’ families to be put through re-sentencing hearings.

There are more than 300 so-called “juvenile lifers” in Michigan.

The bill now goes to the state House.