Argument preview: A new look — maybe — at life sentences for youths
"June 25, 2012, has stood as a barrier to potential freedom for hundreds of youths who were sentenced before then to life in prison, without a chance of release, for murders they had committed. The Supreme Court several times since then has refused to consider appeals asking that those youths, too, get the benefit of a ruling on that day that such sentences should seldom be imposed.
The Justices have now taken on that retroactivity issue, in Montgomery v. Louisiana. But they also have added a question of whether they even have the authority to decide it. Both issues will be heard at 10 a.m. next Tuesday, with the hearing expanded to seventy-five minutes to allow discussion on the Court's power to act.
In the 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, the Court declared that it would be unconstitutional to have a mandatory sentence of life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for individuals convicted of murders committed before they were eighteen years old. The ruling did not flatly forbid all such sentences, but it did say that they should be uncommon. Unless the Supreme Court says so, a decision like that does not apply retroactively — that is, it does not cover cases in which the conviction had become final before the date of the ruling."
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