Michigan criminal defense attorney

US Supreme Court Ruled Juveniles Sentenced to Life as Cruel and Unusual

Supreme Court

Should a 14 year old be sentence to life without parole?

Do you think that juveniles should be tried as adults?

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that sentencing a juvenile to life in prison with no chance of parole is cruel and unusual punishment, violating the 8th Amendment. This ruling showcases that juveniles are not adults and therefore should not be tried as such.

That decision has ignited debate in Michigan and the nation as to whether the ruling applies those already in prison and whose appeals already have been exhausted or to future offenders.

In more than one case, juveniles have been sentenced to life without parole because they were a part of an altercation that ended in someone’s death.

The Detroit Free Press offers an example:

Raymond Carp was 15 when his half brother, Brandon Gorecki, 22, beat and stabbed 43-year-old Maryann McNeely to death in her mobile home in St. Clair County’s Casco Township on May 31, 2006. Gorecki testified at Carp’s first-degree murder trial that he, not Carp, killed McNeely. But a friend testified that Carp made incriminating statements about handing Gorecki the knife and holding McNeely down. Carp is now serving life without parole.

There are currently 358 juveniles serving out life sentences without parole in Michigan alone. Ranking only below Pennsylvania, Michigan only accounts for 14% of the 2,600 “juveniles lifers”.

It is unclear if the Supreme Courts’ new ruling will have an effect on the 2,600 current juvenile lifers or if only impacts the future. What is clear is that judges are now required to take a few things into consideration before imposing any sentence. Those items judges must consider include:

  • The background of the juveniles
  • The circumstances of the crime
  • The extent the juvenile was involved in the crime

Ann Arbor attorney Deborah LaBelle, the ACLU’s point person in the battle over the juvenile lifer law stated the following according to the Free Press:

There are kids in (prison) who have matured and don’t belong there, We recognize that in every other context, kids are different than adults, yet we don’t treat them that way under Michigan’s juvenile lifer laws.

What do you think? Do you agree with the Supreme Court?

This article was published on: October 19, 2012 and was last modified October 20, 2012