U.S. Supreme Court

Ban life-without-parole sentences for juveniles retroactively, ABA urges SCOTUS

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A landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 should be applied retroactively to eliminate mandatory life-without-parole sentences imposed on juveniles before Miller v. Alabama was decided, the American Bar Association argues in an amicus brief (PDF) filed Wednesday.

The U.S. Supreme Court held in Miller v. Alabama that a mandatory life sentence without parole is unconstitutional for a juvenile and said the youth’s individual characteristics must be taken into account. This decision should be viewed as substantive rather than procedural and hence retroactive, the ABA says in its filing in Henry Montgomery v. State of Louisiana.

Applying the decision to previous juvenile cases won”t invalidate prior sentences but simply provide hope to those convicted as juveniles that they may someday win release, the brief argues. “What is at issue here is merely whether they should be given the opportunity at some point during their lifetimes to attempt to demonstrate that they have changed.”

An ABA press release provides more details.

The case is Henry Montgomery v. State of Louisiana.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Chemerinsky: Juvenile Life-Without-Parole Case Means Courts Must Look at Mandatory Sentences”

ABAJournal.com: “Is ban on mandatory life sentences for juveniles retroactive? SCOTUS to decide”

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