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Criminal Appellate & Post-Conviction Services

Miller v Alabama Developments - Updated and Remixed

This is an update and consolidation of several Miller stories posted over the last several days.
Last June the United States Supreme Court struck down a mandatory life without a parole sentence given to juveniles who kill. Michigan is the state with second largest group of juveniles serving these JLWOP (“juvenile life without parole”) sentences; Pennsylvania will be the first comprehensive decision. There are two cases on the subject which predate the Pennsylvania case, but both have imperfect pedigrees.
The first case is
Geter v State from Florida. There, the prisoner tried to raise the issue without counsel. A motion for rehearing is pending and the Florida Public Defender’s Office is trying to fix the damage. The decision is unpublished and not final. At this moment in time, the ruling does not have precedental authority. Mr. Geter never briefed the retroactivity issued. The Court’s ruling tries to decide the case under a Teague retroactivity analysis, but missed the fact that the Jackson v Hobbs decided the case retroactively.

The Louisiana Supreme Court just applied Miller v Alabama was retroactively in a summary order in
State v Edmonds, Louisiana Supreme Court No. 11-KP-1810. The order is very brief, but note that they are talking about a 1995 conviction. For background facts, see the Mr. Simmon’s original appeal. State v Simmons, 759 So 2d 940 (La Ct App 2000). There is no analysis on the retroactivity issue -- the Court simply presumed retroactivity.
For years, special hearings were required before a juvenile could be tried in adult court. Such trials were only permitted if the juvenile could not be treated in the juvenile system. Over the last twenty years these waiver procedures have largely been abrogated nationwide. This was part of a”get tough” movement where opponents argued that this was coddling juveniles and that juveniles who commit serious crime should be treated as adults.

Miller v Alabama (decided in June of this year) struck down this scheme as applied to juveniles who kill The Court said that adult life without parole sentences should rarely be given to juveniles and that the sentences needed to be individualized. Michigan is struggling with this case and whether it is retroactive.
This Tuesday, I will be part of the defense team arguing People v Carp to a special panel of the Court of Appeals. The pleadings are on this
website. In addition to this, there is a civil suit being argued in our federal courts by Attorney Deborah Labelle and a fight on the floors of our Legislature.

Detroit Free Press has a nice story on the Michigan litigation. Similarly, the New York Times covers the Pennsylvania litigation. Here is a link to the Defendant’s brief in the Cunningham case. Here is the briefs and oral argument recordings from the companion case of Commonwealth v Batts. I also found this interesting discussion here on the retroactivity issue.