Attorney Eric D. Puryear

Supreme Court Rules Juveniles Serving Life Sentences Have Right to Have Their Sentences Reviewed

Puryear Law » Legal Blog » Legal News » Supreme Court Rules Juveniles Serving Life Sentences Have Right to Have Their Sentences Reviewed

Those convicted of crimes committed as a juvenile who are serving life sentences have the right to seek a review and reduction of those sentences, under a United States Supreme Court ruling that was issued on January 25, 2016.


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In Montgomery v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court took up a case in which a person who was convicted of a murder committed when he was 17 sought to have his life sentence reduced:

Petitioner Montgomery was 17 years old in 1963, when he killed a deputy sheriff in Louisiana. The jury returned a verdict of “guilty without capital punishment,” which carried an automatic sentence of life without parole. Nearly 50 years after Montgomery was taken into custody, this Court decided that mandatory life without parole for juvenile
homicide offenders violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “ ‘cruel and unusual punishments.’ ” Miller v. Alabama, 567 U. S. ___, ___. Montgomery sought state collateral relief, arguing that Miller rendered his mandatory life-without-parole sentence illegal. The trial court denied his motion, and his application for a supervisory
writ was denied by the Louisiana Supreme Court, which had previously held that Miller does not have retroactive effect in cases on state collateral review.

The Supreme Court held that the Miller v. Alabama ruling, which did away with mandatory life without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders, applies retroactively. Thus, Mr. Montgomery has the right to seek a reduced sentence that could see him paroled from prison.


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Since this ruling is a United States Supreme Court ruling, it applies to all states within the United States (including Illinois and Iowa, of course).  This ruling may have a significant impact upon the ability of those individuals serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for offenses committed while they were under the age of 18.  Any person in such a situation is well advised to seek an attorney and address the matter.


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