Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on whether mandatory life sentences are too cruel for juveniles. In the first of a 5-part series, MLive Media Group in Michigan examines what is at stake. Looking at the case of T. J. Tremble, who at 14 shot and killed an elderly couple and stole their car, the story asks whether, now 29, it is possible that he has changed in the second half of his life, or that he can change with more time?
In a state with more “juvenile lifers” than almost any other, the answers will resonate throughout Michigan as the high court addresses whether life sentences, without a chance of parole, are unconstitutional even for juveniles who commit unthinkable crimes? If the court's earlier rulings are an indication, the answer could be yes. An Mlive Media Group investigation last November detailed how mandatory sentencing laws and get-tough reforms propelled Michigan near the top of the nation in juvenile lifers. Only Pennsylvania has more. Of nearly two dozen inmates profiled, several had not killed anyone, but were present. Sometimes the accomplices got more time than the killer, a quirk of mandatory sentencing laws, rejected pleas and juries.