Thursday, September 17, 2015
According to a recent article,
The Maryland Office of the Public Defender's post-conviction division has adopted a strategy to help ensure juveniles convicted of crimes and serving life sentences without the possibility of parole are resentenced following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that such punishments are cruel and unusual.
The Supreme Court case was Miller v. Alabama, which held that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Many claim, however, that Miller actually sweeps more broadly, and that seems to be the argument being made by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender's post-conviction division. According to the article,
Under the division's new Youth-Resentencing Project, attorneys will investigate all life-without-parole cases to determine if the crime occurred before the convict reached age 18 and examine other cases involving juvenile offenders serving long sentences short of life without parole, said division chief Becky Feldman.
Presumably, these other cases would include cases in which juvenile defendants are given sentences that are constructively life without parole. One example would be the life + 30 sentence given to Adnan Syed, who almost certainly has no hope of ever seeing his way outside of prison unless his conviction is reversed.
In South Carolina, we're dealing with similar issues. Last year, I was honored to moot John Blume's arguments in a case involving several defendants trying to get their juvenile life without parole sentences thrown out. Those arguments were ultimately successful, and it will be interesting to see whether a similar result is achieved in Maryland.