We've seen a lot of confusion emerge from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year in Miller v. Alabama. The Court issued a mushy standard to follow-up on two prior holdings, one banning the death penalty outright for minors, and another banning life-without-parole sentences for juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses.
In Miller, the Court addressed homicide offenders, and held that while a life-without-parole sentence may be appropriate, there must first be consideration of the offender's age, childhood, life experience, degree of responsibility the youth was capable of exercising, and the chances for rehabilitation. The Court also implied that a life sentence is almost never appropriate.
Of course, that doesn't help those who have already been sentenced. Or does it?
In Graham v. Florida, the Court issued the aforementioned ban on life-without-parole for non-homicide offenses committed by juveniles. Since the decision was handed down, courts across the country have struggled with the obvious question: is this retroactive?
It took the Ninth Circuit three years to answer that question (in the affirmative), while other circuits haven't reached the issue yet.
In our U.S. Supreme Court blog, we looked at how the fallout from Miller echoed that of Graham, only the split is even more pronounced: 11 states have changed their laws to comply, 15 haven't, and some state courts have ruled that Miller is retroactive, while others have ruled that is isn't.
And then there is Michigan, where the federal and state courts have come to opposite holdings. As we noted, state lawmakers are considering a package of bills that would require judges to make the considerations required by Miller, the Attorney General Bill Schuette is appealing a federal court decision from earlier this year that applied Miller retroactively to all Michigan juvenile murderers, and a state court ruled the other way and denied retroactive application.
6th Circuit Puts Hold on Hearings
Last month, a federal judge ordered the State of Michigan to move forward with parole hearings for juvenile lifers, finding that the state was taking too long to comply with the Supreme Court's holding in Miller.
Schuette appealed, and the Sixth Circuit intervened this week, putting a hold on the court-mandated parole hearings until the court has a chance to hear the case, reports the Detroit Free Press.
Though he has conceded that Miller applies to present and future cases, Schuette maintains that the holding should not apply retroactively, and that "murder victims and their families  should not be forced to go through unnecessary parole hearings."
- Miller v. Alabama (FindLaw's CaseLaw)
- 9th Circuit, SCOTUS Rulings Could Set School Shooting Spree Killer Free (FindLaw's U.S. Ninth Circuit Blog)
- Juvenile Life Sentences Unconstitutional Without Parole (FindLaw's Decided)