Supreme Court To Decide If Teen Life Without Parole Ruling Is Retroactive


The Supreme Court will decide whether its 2012 ruling barring mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile killers must be applied retroactively, the New York Times reports. George Toca of Louisiana was 17 in 1984 when he fatally shot a friend during a botched armed robbery. Toca was automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, as required by Louisiana law. In the case of Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled that such mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The question now is whether the Miller decision entitles Toca to a new sentencing hearing. The Louisiana Supreme Court said no. In another case, the Louisiana court said retroactivity was not required because the Miller decision “merely sets forth a new rule of criminal constitutional procedure.” The supreme courts of Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Texas have ruled in favor of retroactivity. The supreme courts of Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have rejected retroactivity.

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