Twenty-Five Year Reviews of Life Without Parole Sentences Are Underway

Under a law that existed from late 1994 to late 1998, North Carolina defendants sentenced to life without parole for offenses committed during that window are entitled to a judicial review after 25 years of imprisonment. I wrote about it here a few years ago, noting that the window for reviews would open in late 2019. Here we are.

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An Update on Life with and without Parole for Young Defendants

In Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), the Supreme Court held that a sentencing regime that makes life without parole mandatory for a murder committed by a defendant under the age of 18 is unconstitutional. The rule applies retroactively. Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. __, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016). North Carolina amended its statutes to comply with the ruling in 2012, enacting G.S. 15A-1340.19A through -1340.19D to create an option to sentence certain young defendants to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Today’s post considers where we are after a half-decade under the new regime.

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SCOTUS to Hear Argument in October about Miller Retroactivity

On October 13, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Montgomery v. Louisiana, a case that presents the question whether Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012), applies retroactively to convictions that became final before Miller was decided. In Miller the Court held that under the Eighth Amendment a sentencing scheme that mandates life without parole for defendants less than 18 years old at the time of their crimes is unconstitutional. Miller did not categorically ban a life without parole sentence for juvenile offenders; rather it mandated that the sentencer must consider an offender’s youth and attendant characteristics before imposing such a penalty. Miller applies to all cases that were pending when it was decided as well as to all future cases. Griffith v. Kentucky, 479 U.S. 314 (1987). The question of retroactivity is whether the Miller rule applies to cases that became final before the decision was issued. As I noted in a blog post here, the lower courts are divided on the issue. The Court’s decision in Montgomery might finally resolve it.

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State v. Lovette and North Carolina’s Miller Fix Law

Earlier in the week, the court of appeals decided State v. Lovette, the appeal of one of the defendants convicted of killing UNC student body president Eve Carson. The case has been covered widely in the media, including the Daily Tar Heel. The court of appeals found no error in Laurence Lovette’s convictions for first-degree … Read more

Miller v. Alabama

Most people were disappointed that the Supreme Court did not release the health care ruling on Monday. I, on the other hand, was excited to read Miller v. Alabama, a case with important sentencing ramifications for many states, including North Carolina. In Miller, the Court held 5–4 that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme … Read more

Juvenile LWOP and the Supreme Court

I was thinking about making today’s post a news roundup, since there’s been so much interesting criminal law news recently, including a rumor suggesting that Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson could be under consideration to replace Justice David Souter on the United States Supreme Court.  (More information about that here.) But those plans were blown out of … Read more