Challenging Mandatory Life Sentences For Juveniles Who Commit Murder

In the 2012 case of Miller v. Alabama, the US Supreme Court held that the 8th Amendment bars mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles who commit murder. The court did not say that such sentences were barred in every case. Instead the court said that while a life without parole sentence might not be cruel and unusual for some juvenile defendants, it would be unconstitutional in most cases. To let trial courts sort out the appropriate sentence in each case, the Supreme Court ordered that there must be an individual sentencing hearing in each case. Since the Miller decision, courts around the country have struggled with the question of whether the decision is retroactive. That question will be squarely before Merrimack Superior's Judge Smukler tomorrow when Richard Guerriero and other defense counsel argue on behalf of their clients that Miller does apply retroactively.

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