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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Federal judge tells prosecutors: No more life without chance of parole for youth

The U.S. Supreme Court building
U.S. Supreme Court

A federal judge in Detroit says more than 360 Michigan inmates convicted as juveniles and serving sentences of mandatory life without parole must get a chance at freedom.

This the latest chapter in a drama that’s played out over the past four years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory life without parole for juveniles as unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge John O’Meara issued a temporary restraining order telling prosecutors they cannot seek the sentences again at new hearings granted under the ruling.

Deborah LaBelle is an attorney representing juvenile lifers. She says many prosecutors planned to seek the exact same sentence even though said all of these cases deserve a thorough, new review, and that life with no chance at parole for juveniles should be rare.


“All of these youth must have an opportunity for release – at some time,” said LaBelle. “That doesn’t mean that they will be released, but it means they must have the opportunity to show growth, maturation, and what they did as a child does not represent who they are as an adult.”

Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office, which has vigorously defended juvenile life without parole, had no immediate comment on the order.

“We are currently reviewing it,” said Schuette press secretary Andrea Bitely.

There will be a hearing July 28 where the O’Meara can decide whether to lift the order, or make it permanent.

LaBelle says Michigan should join the states that have scrapped life without a chance at parole for juveniles and leave it to parole boards to determine whether an inmate is irredeemable.