life without parole

Michigan Dept of Corrections

A convicted killer will get a chance at a new sentence.   

In this case, one hour makes a big difference.

Deandre Woolfolk was about an hour shy of his 18th birthday when he took part in the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl.

Woolfolk and two other men were convicted of murder in the case.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - About 130 Michigan prison inmates will have an opportunity to seek parole in a case that ends an unusual state policy of treating them as mandatory lifers.

The state won't appeal a 2013 court decision that struck down the policy and has agreed to clear the way for a parole process. Judge Deborah Servitto signed an order last week.

It's an odd case. The inmates were sent to prison with life sentences for a variety of crimes but still had a chance at parole. Then they got in trouble for possessing a weapon or committing another offense behind bars.

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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. 

Village hopes a private prison brings jobs, money
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.

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Teen offenders in Michigan are worse off than teens in other states.

That's according to a new report from Michigan-based Second Chances 4 Youth and the state chapter of the ACLU

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal judge will hear the state’s request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging state law that allows juveniles offenders to be sentenced to life without parole this afternoon. 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are more than 350 people serving life without parole sentences in Michigan who were convicted for a crime they committed when they were under 18 years old.   Michigan has more juvenile offenders serving life terms than any other state except Pennsylvania.