Nov 062013
 

French Quarter, New Orleans: Front of courthouse building on Royal Street. Statue is of Supreme Court Justice White. Photo by Infrogmation

French Quarter, New Orleans: Front of courthouse building on Royal Street. Statue is of Supreme Court Justice White. Photo by Infrogmation

 In the United States of America, the juvenile justice system has become more civilized in the past eight years. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the death penalty for juveniles. In 2010, the high court banned mandatory life sentences for minors convicted of non-homicide offenses such as aggravated rape. The Miller vs. Alabama  decision of June 25, 2012 held that mandatory life sentences for juvenile killers run afoul of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and are therefore unconstitutional. Louisiana was one of 28 states, which had made no difference between youthful offenders and adult offenders.

It was clear from that day that there would be a run on the courts in Louisiana by convicted juvenile murderers seeking resentencing. Around 250 prisoners, who were under the age of 18 when they committed homicides, are affected in that state alone. One of the cases before the Louisiana Supreme Court was State of Louisiana v. Darryl Tate . Tate was sentenced to life without parole for second degree murder in 1981. His case and sentence became final in 1984. The question now was whether the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller should be applied to juvenile offenders whose life sentences were handed down before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its June 25, 2012 decision.  

Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, who disagrees with the majority opinion of her court, rephrased, “Should Miller apply retroactively to cases on collateral review?”  She finds that “Miller announced a new rule of criminal procedure that is substantive and consequently should apply retroactively, entitling Mr. Tate to relief.”

Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll (who had prosecuted Vincent Simmons when she was her husband’s first assistant district attorney in Avoyelles Parish) wrote the majority opinion. She argued, “Miller does not apply retroactively in cases on collateral review as it merely sets forth a new rule of criminal constitutional procedure, which is neither substantive nor implicative of the fundamental fairness and accuracy of criminal proceedings.” In other words: In Knoll’s view, it is fair that not all juvenile lifers are eligible for parole in her state.

Yet, the courts of the neighboring State of Mississippi, for instance, have decided in their state as Chief Justice Johnson and Associate Justice Jefferson Hughes would have wanted their colleagues to do, too. It still is as it has been before: Many, many motions would not be necessary, if judges from lower courts respected the decisions of the higher courts. Vincent Simmons put it so well years ago: Why do state judges not simply follow the lead by the United States Supreme Court? According to the Times-Picayune, legal experts say that the conflict among the states means the U.S. Supreme Court likely must revisit the Miller decision.

Follow the case of Darryl Tate on the IIPPI Forum.

Also see U.S. Supreme Court: Mandatory life sentences for juveniles unconstitional

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Jun 262012
 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling of June 25, 2012, in Miller v. Alabama entitles juveniles serving a mandatory life term without the possibility of parole to be granted a new sentencing hearing.

“Held: The Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders. Pp. 6−27.”

More at http://www.iippi.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=13745

Christi Lynn Cheramie, now in her 30s and a model prisoner, was 16 years old when she pleaded guilty to second degree murder in Avoyelles Parish.  

This might interest you as well: How Germany does Prison – Americans on a mind-boggling incarceration road trip. (from June 16th through June 21st 2015)

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