<< News Scan | Main | California Miller v. Alabama Developments >>


Mich. App.: Miller Not Retroactive

| 0 Comments
In a published decision, People v. Carp, No. 307758, the Michigan Court of Appeals has held that Miller v. Alabama, forbidding mandatory LWOP for juvenile murderers, is not retroactive to cases already final on appeal when Miller came down.  For new cases, Michigan courts will have to alter their procedures.

The court analyzes the retroactivity question under both the federal Teague rule and under the Michigan standard, which is essentially the same as the U.S. Supreme Court's old pre-Teague Linkletter/Stovall rule (still followed in a surprising number of states).  The conclusion section of the opinion is after the jump.
The United States Supreme Court has, through a series of recent decisions culminating in Miller, indicated that juveniles are subject to different treatment than adults for purposes of sentencing under the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, we hold that in Michigan a sentencing court must consider, at the time of sentencing, characteristics associated with youth as identified in Miller when determining whether to sentence a juvenile convicted of a homicide offense to life in prison with or without the eligibility for parole. While Miller does not serve to "foreclose a sentencer's ability to make that judgment in homicide cases, we require it to take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison."

While Miller is applicable to those cases currently pending or on direct review, we find that in accordance with Teague and Michigan law that it (1) is not to be applied retroactively to cases on collateral review, such as Carp's, because the decision is procedural and not substantive in nature and (2) does not comprise a watershed ruling. We urge our Legislature to address with all possible expediency the issues encompassed by and resulting from Miller and that necessitate the revision of our current statutory sentencing scheme for juveniles.

In the interim, as guidance for our trial courts for those cases currently in process or on remand following direct appellate review, we find that MCL 791.234(6)(a) is unconstitutional as currently written and applied to juvenile homicide offenders. When sentencing a juvenile, defined now as an individual below 18 years of age, for a homicide offense, the sentencing court must, at the time of sentencing, evaluate and review those characteristics of youth and the circumstances of the offense as delineated in Miller and this opinion in determining whether following the imposition of a life sentence the juvenile is to be deemed eligible or not eligible for parole. We further hold that the Parole Board must respect the sentencing court's decision by also providing a meaningful determination and review when parole eligibility arises.

Leave a comment