juvenile lifers

Politics & Government
12:06 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

The week in Michigan politics

Credit Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss Michigan's ruling on how juvenile lifers will not get a chance at parole, pay raises for city leaders in bankrupt Detroit, and what role Michigan could play in housing undocumented minors crossing the Mexico border.

Opinion
10:32 am
Wed July 9, 2014

MI Supreme Court's ruling on juvenile lifers is stupid, expensive and will be overturned

There is a long-established principle that whenever state law conflicts with a federal law, the federal law prevails. That’s been established by a long string of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, plus a little event called the Civil War.  

This is why, for example, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes could rule that the pensions of Detroit city workers and retirees could be cut, even though Michigan’s state constitution says they can’t be. Federal bankruptcy law prevails.

If this weren’t the case, it would mean that anything Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court did could be overruled by any state legislature, and our nation would become no more than a collection of 50 countries united in name only.

That’s something we all learned in civics class -- which makes the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision yesterday on life sentences for minors completely baffling.

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to automatically sentence juveniles to life without the possibility of parole. However, some politicians who want to be seen as tough on crime, claimed this decision was not retroactive.

And yesterday, in a four to three vote, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed with them. The justices ruled that minors who were sentenced in Michigan to life without the possibility of parole still have no chance of a hearing – if they were sentenced before the nation’s highest court’s ruling.

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Breaking
4:46 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Michigan Supreme Court rules juvenile lifers not entitled to re-sentencing hearings

Credit user FatMandy / flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court says felons sentenced as juveniles to life without parole won’t get new sentences.

That’s despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says it’s cruel and unusual punishment.

The question was whether the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller vs. Alabama applies retroactively in Michigan to more than 300 inmates sentenced as juveniles to life without parole, or if it only applies to future cases.

A four-to-three majority on the state Supreme Court says it would present too many financial and logistical barriers to go back and find lost witnesses and evidence for new sentencing hearings.

The Miller decision says mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional because they don’t take into account each child’s circumstances.

States have split on how to handle the Miller decision, which suggests the issue could yet be headed back one day to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Politics & Government
10:38 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Senate OKs $100 million for emergency road repairs and plowing

More money is likely coming from Lansing. But it's not clear how much, or how much it will help.
LisaW123 Flickr

The state Senate has approved a plan to fix and maintain roads being ripped apart by brutal winter weather. The Senate passed a mid-year budget bill Thursday that includes $100 million of emergency money for roads.

The state Department of Transportation and local governments have been constantly running snow plows, spreading salt, and patching potholes. That means they’re looking at huge winter budget overages.

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Politics & Government
1:45 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Ann Arbor teen uses snow days, writes legal brief in defense of juvenile lifers

Michigan Supreme Court
user subterranean wikimedia commons

Sixteen-year-old Matelyn Sarosi wasn't building snow men or sipping hot chocolate during her recent snow days. Instead, she was drafting an 18-page legal document calling for a chance at parole for Michigan prison inmates sentenced to mandatory life in prison for crimes they committed before the age of 18. 

According to the Detroit Free Press, Father Gabriel Richard Catholic High School student Sarosi explained her motives behind her brief to the Michigan Supreme Court, which was submitted on Friday. 

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Politics & Government
7:30 am
Thu February 13, 2014

In this morning's headlines: Health care, juveniles, roads

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

More Michiganders signing up for health care than expected

"About 112,000 Michigan residents chose a private insurance plan under the federal health care law through January, outpacing what was projected in a government memo last summer," the Associated Press reports.

Juvenile lifer sentencing rules head to the governor's desk

"Michigan lawmakers have given final approval to new sentencing rules after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory life imprisonment for juveniles. The bills now head to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. The legislation applies to future cases and not retroactively to more than 350 Michigan inmates under 18 when they committed crimes," the Associated Press reports.

Lowest amount of money spent on roads in the U.S.: Michigan

"Michigan spends less money per capita on our roads and bridges than any other state in the nation. We spent just $154 dollars per person, according to the 2010 Census," Michigan Radio reports.

Law
2:20 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Michigan Attorney General appeals order for parole hearings for teen offenders serving life in jail

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (file photo)
Official portrait

Michigan’s Attorney General has decided to appeal a federal judge’s order that would require parole hearings for more than 300 juvenile offenders serving life sentences.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that sentencing juvenile offenders to automatic life without parole constituted “cruel and unusual” punishment. 

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Opinion
8:34 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Children who murder should get a chance at parole

 CORRECTION: The headline was changed to avoid an inadvertent pun.

There are about 350 in Michigan who screwed up badly when they were teenagers. Most took part in murders. All are serving life without the possibility of parole.

Some of these young killers are probably vicious psychopaths who should never be allowed back into society. Others, however, were scared and stupid kids who, in some cases, did nothing except be there when an older friend, or, in a number of cases, a boyfriend, committed some terrible crime.

But they were all sentenced under Michigan law to life without the possibility of parole, and two years ago, you could have said, that was that. Except that isn’t the law anymore.

Seventeen months ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that laws automatically requiring a life sentence without the possibility of parole for kids under 18 are unconstitutional.

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Politics & Government
11:56 am
Tue November 26, 2013

Federal judge orders parole hearings for more than 350 'juvenile lifers'

A guard tower stands overlooking the yard at one of the state prisons in Jackson
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Judge John O'Meara's order says the state has until January 31st to send him a plan for how it plans to deal with those inmates sentenced as juveniles to life in prison.

It must ensure every inmate sentenced to mandatory life as a juvenile has a "fair, meaningful, and realistic" opportunity for parole.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette has argued a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down Michigan's juvenile lifer law and others like it should only apply to current and future cases.

Schuette could try to appeal Judge O'Meara's order.

Law
12:39 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Michigan's High Court to rule on life-without-parole sentences for minors

California inmates will be housed in a Baldwin prison beginning in 2011
Flickr user Still Burning Creative Commons

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the state's juvenile lifer law applies retroactively to more than 300 inmates. The question is whether those inmates are entitled to parole hearings or if the decision only applies to current and future cases. 

The U.S. Supreme Court decision still allows life-without-parole sentences for minors. But it said courts have to hold hearings to decide whether there are circumstances like abuse or neglect, or whether a defendant was coerced into committing the crime.

The Michigan Supreme Court has also agreed to decide another question: whether minors convicted of assisting in a murder can be given life-without-parole sentences at all. The question is whether that violates the state constitution.

Law
6:49 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court “juvenile lifer” decision would not apply to past cases under Senate bill

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Legislation to overhaul Michigan’s juvenile lifer law would not apply to inmates already sentenced as teenagers to life without parole.

The bills were adopted today by the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

The legislation is required because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down automatic life-without-parole sentences for juveniles.

James Sorenson lost his son in 2007 to a teenaged murderer.    He says any rewrite of the law should put the interests of the victims’ families ahead of teenagers who participated in a murder.

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Law
12:00 pm
Sat September 7, 2013

Work on juvenile lifer bills stalls in Michigan legislature

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers attempting to respond to a ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional have hit a stalemate that threatens to derail any progress.

They can't agree on whether last year's Supreme Court decision last year applies retroactively to the roughly 360 Michigan inmates who were under 18 when they committed crimes.

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Law
4:29 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Hearing held in Lansing on how to rework Michigan's juvenile lifer law

Michigan AG Schuette is appealing the federal court ruling.
Rick Pluta MPRN

Families of murder victims were among those who packed a legislative hearing room today. The hearing was on how to fix Michigan’s juvenile lifer law to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The court held that automatic life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette showed up for the hearing. He says the law should only apply to future cases, and not to the roughly 350 inmates already sentenced as juveniles to life without parole for first degree murder.

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Politics & Government
7:52 am
Tue August 13, 2013

In this morning's news: Juvenile lifers, new autism research, Lansing splits from sister city

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

Schuette will challenge re-sentencing for juvenile lifers

A federal judge says the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down automatic life sentences without parole applies to 363 inmates in Michigan. The judge says the ruling applies to every inmate sentenced as a child and entitles them to re-sentencing hearings. Attorney General Bill Schuette wants the ruling applied to only five Michigan inmates who challenged their cases in federal court, and to future cases. The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees and says the ruling applies to everyone affected. Rick Pluta has more.

U of M research shows association between autism and induced labor

“New University of Michigan research has found an association between autism and inducing or augmenting labor during childbirth. Researchers looked at the birth records of more than 600 thousand children and compared them to the children’s school records. They found a 35 percent increased chance of autism in boys whose mothers’ had their labor induced or augmented. Marie Lynn Miranda, a Pediatrics professor at U of M, says the data is worth further study, but it does not draw a direct link between inducing labor and autism,” Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports.

Lansing wants to cut ties with Russian sister city

“Officials in Lansing want to end their community's 'sister cities' relationship with the Russian city of St. Petersburg due to that country's anti-gay policies. The Lansing State Journal and MLive.com report Lansing City Council voted unanimously Monday calling for end to the relationship. A new Russian law is aimed at 'propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.' It imposes fines for organizations, plus stiffer penalties for propaganda online or in the media,” according to the Associated Press.

Law
9:29 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Federal judge says hundreds of Michigan's juvenile lifers should be eligible for parole

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal judge says 363 inmates in Michigan prisons sentenced to life without parole as juveniles should get parole hearings.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that laws like Michigan’s that automatically send some juveniles to prison for life with no chance of parole are “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Attorney General Bill Schuette has been trying to limit the scope of the ruling to five inmates who challenged their sentences and to all future cases. He says families of murder victims deserved the certainty of knowing those sentences would stand.

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Newsmaker Interviews
4:42 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Advocates say juvenile prisoners are at risk

user FatMandy flickr

Michigan is one of 25 states that allow convicted teens, under the age of 18, to be imprisoned with adults.

Attorney Deborah LaBelle is a juvenile justice advocate with the ACLU. She estimates nearly 200,000 children have been abused in adult prisons. LaBelle recently returned from Washington, D.C. where the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted a hearing on this issue with representatives from the U.S. State Department. The hearing focused on the physical, sexual, and psychological abuse experienced by children when housed with adults in prisons.

"In addition to the physical and psychological harm that's going on, putting children in the adult facilitates also results in them losing the very two things that makes them children: education and contact with their family and parents," LaBelle said in this interview with Jennifer White.

You can listen to the full interview above.

Law
10:23 am
Thu February 14, 2013

Michigan AG says federal judge's 'juvenile lifer' ruling not binding

Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for prisoner rehabilitation
Kevin Rosseel morguefile

There’s a difference of opinion between Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the American Civil Liberties Union on how prosecutors should handle a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down sentences of mandatory life without parole for juveniles.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that lifers sent to prison as juveniles are entitled to parole hearings.

Attorney General Schuette then sent a letter to prosecutors that says a federal judge’s opinion is not binding on them.

Schuette’s office did not return phone calls, but ACLU attorney Deborah LaBelle says the letter is out of bounds. She says the attorney general can appeal the decision, but he should not tell prosecutors to ignore it.

“They may disagree with that ruling. That’s fine. I understand, but it’s the law right now,” said LaBelle.

“Once a statute is unconstitutional, it can’t be enforced, and I would think the attorney general would know that, and so the parole board cannot deny jurisdiction to these youth,” she said.

LaBelle says legal arguments are due March 1 on how the state should handle requests for parole hearings by juvenile lifers.

Schuette has opposed extending the reach of the decision to the more than 350 Michigan prisoners sentenced as juveniles to life without parole.

He has said it’s not fair to force the families of murder victims to relive their tragedies.

Politics & Government
7:44 am
Thu January 31, 2013

This morning's news: Juvenile lifers, road funding, and GM invests in Michigan

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Judge says prisoners sentenced as juveniles should get parole hearings 

Judge John Corbett O'Meara says a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory no-parole sentences applies retroactively to Michigan inmates already behind bars.

There are more than 350 inmates in Michigan prisons serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles, and there's been a lot of debate about whether these inmate should get a shot at parole.

The Detroit Free Press has the story of one of those prisoners this morning.

...life has never been simple for Jennifer Pruitt. Her 37 years have been punctuated by turmoil -- a tough upbringing, a life sentence for murder, repeated rapes in prison and glimmers of hope that quickly got dashed.

Road funding discussions get underway in Michigan legislature

In his State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder made roads a top priority. He called for new revenue to support road building. Whether that will mean higher taxes or higher fees for Michigan residents remains to be seen. Jonathan Oosting of MLive reports the discussions will get underway soon:

... a joint resolution introduced by Republican Sens. Randy Richardville, Roger Kahn and Bruce Caswell offers a simple starting point for discussions: A constitutional amendment to raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 8 percent. As a trade-off for the increased sales tax, a related bill would eliminate the state's 19-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax.

Such a tax increase would require voter approval. Other plans, such as increasing gas taxes or registration fees, are being considered as well.

Investment in Pontiac, GM plans expansion

General Motors announced its consolidating some of its research and development operations and expanding its Global Powertrain Engineering Headquarters in Pontiac. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports the company is expected to invest $200 million in the Pontiac facility.

GM estimates the move will move about 400 jobs now in various facilities to Pontiac. The investment is part of a GM commitment to invest $1.5 billion in North American facilities across the state and the country.

GM officials say employees will start transferring to Pontiac as soonas the middle this year, and the expansion will be completed in mid 2014.

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Law
3:41 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Judge opens door for Michigan juvenile lifers

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws that allow juveniles to be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.
US Supreme Court

DETROIT (AP) - A federal judge says all Michigan inmates serving no-parole sentences for murder committed as juveniles are entitled to a chance at release.
 
Judge John Corbett O'Meara says a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory no-parole sentences applies retroactively to Michigan inmates already behind bars.

O'Meara's decision Wednesday trumps a ruling last fall by the Michigan appeals court, which said retroactivity would not apply for most.

Law
12:10 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

Court: No review of sentences for current juvenile lifers

Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for prisoner rehabilitation
Kevin Rosseel morguefile

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder does not apply retroactively.

The case involved a resentencing request for Raymond Carp. In 2006, Carp was convicted of first-degree murder as a 16-year old.

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