Are juveniles too young to know right from wrong?

Aug 20, 2013

Lawyers in Michigan are hoping a federal ruling will eventually change the way the state sentences juveniles in murder cases.

A federal court judge recently ruled that inmates who received mandatory life sentences for offenses committed when they were juveniles should have an opportunity to be re-sentenced. Michigan has more than 350 juvenile lifers, the second-highest highest number in the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that laws like Michigan's that automatically send some juveniles to prison for life without a chance for parole are "cruel and unusual punishment."

Cary McGehee is a civil rights attorney. She's provides pro bono legal counsel to two inmates currently serving mandatory life sentences. She says "...children who are involved in crimes really don't have the same recognition of the significance of their actions. They're much more likely to engage in impulsivity and reckless behavior.... When we go back to look at these individuals who were convicted when they were 14, 15, 16, 17 years old, these are factors that need to be considered to determine whether the sentence that was given to them was an appropriate sentence."

Listen to the full interview above.