States are responding to U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have found mandatory life-without-parole sentences unconstitutional for juveniles except for the rare homicide offender incapable of rehabilitation. After the latest ruling in January 2016 said those serving such terms must have a chance to argue for release one day, dozens of inmates have won new sentences — and some, freedom — while others wait or fight to have their sentences reviewed.
Through court and legislative action, states also are revisiting laws related to the punishment of juvenile offenders in myriad ways. The Associated Press reviewed correctional data and interviewed lawmakers, parole officials and advocates across the U.S. Here’s a look at what’s happening from state to state:
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Inmates: At least 72 inmates were inmates sentenced to life without parole for murders committed as juveniles, including Evan Miller, one of two teens whose murder convictions resulted in the landmark 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said mandatory life without parole is unconstitutional for minors convicted of homicide.
Resentenced or Released: At least 20 inmates have been resentenced to parole-eligible sentences. One has gone before the parole board, but was denied release. A judge presided over a new sentencing hearing for Miller in March. A decision is pending.
The Law: Lawmakers in 2016 passed a measure that allows juveniles convicted of capital murder life with the possibility of parole after 30 years, but life without parole remains an option.
This state does not have a juvenile life-without-parole sentence.
Inmates: Thirty-four serving life without parole for murders committed as teens. The state’s two most populous counties, Maricopa and Pima, account for 85 percent of these inmates.
Resentenced or Released: One so far. Jack David Jewitt was resentenced in June and is eligible for parole in 2021, after 28 years. He was 14 when he and a then-20-year-old accomplice carjacked and fatally shot a woman. Jewitt’s accomplice committed the murder. A handful of other inmates have petitioned for new sentences.
The Law: Life without parole for juveniles has always been discretionary in Arizona. Nevertheless, prosecutors are reviewing juvenile lifer cases. Lawyers predict lower-court judges will hold resentencing hearings to determine who should get a new term. A bill to eliminate natural life altogether for juveniles failed this year.
Inmates: The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth estimates about 114 juvenile lifers are in state prisons, including those serving mandatory and discretionary sentences. State officials said about 41 former teen offenders are serving mandatory life without parole as of July.
Resentenced or Released: At least 16 resentenced; 11 of those released. Among them is Kuntrell Jackson, another plaintiff in the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision on life without parole for juveniles. In 1999, Jackson was 14 when he joined in an attempted robbery during which a video store clerk was killed. Jackson was not the shooter. He was released on parole in February.
The Law: A state law that took effect in March banned life without parole for juvenile offenders and makes those already serving the sentence eligible for release after 25 years for first-degree murder or 30 years for capital murder. The parole board had been reviewing cases but put that on hold recently after one county circuit judge found that fixed terms prevent individualized sentencing.
Inmates: Estimates vary between advocacy groups and state officials. Anywhere from 268 to 283.
Resentenced or Released: Corrections officials could not say how many have been resentenced, but Human Rights Watch estimates about 50 juvenile lifers have had their sentences reduced and seven have been released.
The Law: A 2012 state law allows those sentenced to life without parole as juveniles to petition for resentencing. A judge can grant a hearing, and has the discretion to lower the penalty to 25-to-life. But the state Supreme Court has said the law is not enough to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions because it does not guarantee a parole hearing. A bill is pending in the Legislature that would make youthful offenders eligible for parole during their 25th year of incarceration.
Inmates: Colorado ended life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders in 2006. But the state had 48 offenders sentenced between 1990 and 2006, when the sentence was an option.
Resentenced or Released: At least four resentenced; one released. The Department of Corrections said several others are potentially coming up for resentencing soon.
The Law: Lawmakers in 2016 ordered corrections officials to create a program for offenders sentenced to life terms as juveniles, with or without parole. Those inmates could join the program after serving 20 years or 25 years if convicted of first-degree murder. Upon completion, offenders could be eligible to apply to the parole board; release is up to the governor. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in May that the U.S. Supreme Court decisions do not prohibit lengthy sentences for teen offenders who commit multiple crimes.
Inmates: 66 inmates who were sentenced as juveniles to more than 50 years, state officials say.
Resentenced or Released: All are still incarcerated except for one, who died. But the state is in the process of so-called “juvenile reconsideration hearings,” a new parole eligibility system for juvenile offenders who got more than 10 years in prison. The parole board held 22 hearings in 2016 and 13 in 2017, as of May. Of those 35 offenders, 17 were paroled and 18 were denied. The board identified a total of 210 former juveniles who qualified for the hearings.
The Law: A 2015 state law effectively abolished lengthy sentences — or de facto life terms — for offenders under the age of 18. It requires the state take a “second look” at juvenile offenders serving lengthy sentences. Minors who got more than 50 years are now parole-eligible after serving 30; those sentenced to 10 to 50 years are now parole-eligible after serving 12 years or 60 percent of the sentence, whichever is greater.
Inmates: One serving life without parole for crimes committed at 17.
Resentenced or Released: Before the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on juvenile life without parole, 14 juvenile offenders had been serving life without parole. All were resentenced from November 2013 to April 2016. Five have been released, including four who remain on probation or under Department of Correction supervision for crimes committed as juveniles. The others remain behind bars.
The Law: Lawmakers revised Delaware’s sentencing laws in 2013, mandating a minimum sentence of 25 years for anyone convicted of a first-degree murder committed as a juvenile. Life without parole remains an option for juveniles, but they are entitled to petition for a review of their sentence after serving 30 years.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Inmates: None serving life without parole, but the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth says more than 100 former teen offenders serving lengthy sentences are immediately affected by a new provision allowing them to petition for a review of their terms.
The Law: A city law has prohibited life without parole for juveniles for decades. Juveniles can still be sentenced to long prison terms as a result of serious crimes or multiple charges, but the law does give some people who committed crimes as juveniles and who have served at least 20 years in prison an opportunity to have their sentences reviewed.
Inmates: Florida is complicated because the state Supreme Court has expanded the number of juvenile cases affected beyond those addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Advocates estimate there are about 600 inmates in prison for murders committed as juveniles who are potentially eligible for a new sentence.
Resentenced or Released: Florida no longer has parole, so addressing these cases has been tricky. In 2014, legislators changed the law to give juveniles, including those serving life sentences, an opportunity to have their sentences automatically reviewed by a judge after 15, 20 or 25 years served, depending on the crime. An estimated 85 offenders have been resentenced, says Roseanne Eckert, an attorney with the Florida Juvenile Resentencing and Review Project at Florida International University. About 80 additional inmates who’d been imprisoned for life without parole in cases other than homicide were resentenced after the U.S. Supreme Court banned that sentence for juveniles in non-homicide offenses, based on the Florida case of Terrance Graham. He was ultimately resentenced to 25 years, making him eligible for release as early as 2026.
The Law: Former teen offenders must have their sentences automatically reviewed by a judge after 15, 20 or 25 years served. For example, a juvenile who was convicted of participating in a homicide but who did not actually kill would get a review after 15 years; a juvenile who actually commits a murder would get a review after 25 years. Florida is giving a second chance not only to those serving mandatory life sentences, but those whose who received lengthy sentences as well.
Inmates: 25 serving life without parole for crimes committed as minors, according to corrections officials.
Resentenced or Released: Experts are aware of only one resentencing case. The Georgia Supreme Court vacated the no-parole sentence of a man convicted for murder, rape, armed robbery and other charges at 17, emphasizing that such sentences should be permitted for only the “rarest of juvenile offenders.” The inmate was resentenced to two consecutive life terms but could be eligible for parole at age 77.
The Law: Georgia law requires that inmates given life sentences for violent felonies serve at least 30 years before becoming eligible for parole, including juveniles sentenced as adults.
The Law: In 2014, lawmakers approved a measure that excludes life without parole for those 17 and younger.
Inmates: Four, one of whom lost her bid before the Idaho Supreme Court, which determined that her sentencing judge already considered her age as a mitigating factor.
The Law: Life without parole is allowed but not required for crimes committed by juveniles. Judges often consider mitigating factors during a separate sentencing hearing for the most serious crimes. The state doesn’t have a standardized process for reviewing the sentences of current juvenile lifers, so it’s typically up to each inmate to file for a resentencing. Idaho attorney Dennis Benjamin ensured all four inmates were aware of the high court’s actions.
Inmates: Some 80 serving mandatory life without parole for juvenile offenses, and another 20 who received discretionary life-without-parole sentences for offenses committed as juveniles. One of the latter group has an appeal pending before the Illinois Supreme Court that seeks to determine whether the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on mandatory life apply to those serving discretionary no-parole terms.
Resentenced or Released: About 35 of the 80 mandatory juvenile lifers have been resentenced, according to Shobha Mahadev, project director of the Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children. A small number have been released, including three inmates who had innocence claims. Two inmates received natural life sentences in new hearings, but one had his punishment reduced to 60 years on appeal.
The Law: In the last three years, laws have been enacted that give judges broader discretion in handling cases involving juveniles. The age of juvenile court jurisdiction for most crimes has been raised to those 17 and younger — it previously was 16 and younger. Also, there’s now a more limited range of crimes automatically transferred to adult court.
Inmates: Five men are serving life-without-parole sentences for murders committed when they were juveniles, according to the Indiana Public Defender Council.
The Law: Indiana law allows judges to use their discretion and sentence those convicted of committing murder when they were over the age of 16 to life without parole.
Inmates: Originally 46 juvenile lifers.
Resentenced or Released: Of the 46, all but three have been resentenced with the possibility of parole, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections. They had individual hearings that started in 2012. One died while in prison. Eight have been freed, one of whom was released to hospice care and later died. In addition, one inmate was resentenced to life without parole, but the Iowa Supreme Court overruled that sentence.
The Law: In 2016, the Iowa Supreme Court voted 4-3 that juvenile life-without-parole sentences are unconstitutional. In a case in June, the court said that even mandatory minimum sentences should be uncommon for juveniles.
The Law: Offenders under 18 are prohibited from receiving life without parole.
Inmates: Two serving life-without-parole sentences for murders they committed as teens. Two others argue they effectively have life without parole because the parole board denied their release and won’t give them another hearing.
Resentenced or Released: All of the inmates have filed legal challenges asking to be made eligible for parole. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office said the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year does not apply to any of the defendants.
The Law: The state Supreme Court banned life without parole for juveniles charged with homicide in 2008.
Inmates: 303 sentenced to mandatory life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles, according to the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
Resentenced or Released: The agency does not track resentencings. But over the last year, at least 67 inmates have been resentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, according to the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. Since the start of 2016, four juvenile life inmates have been released, including one as the result of a commutation by the governor, according to Keith Nordyke, a lawyer with the Louisiana Parole Project. A small number of juvenile lifers have been resentenced to life without parole.
The Law: The case of Louisiana inmate Henry Montgomery was at the center of the Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling that gave juvenile lifers a chance at release. Montgomery, who killed a sheriff’s deputy in 1963 when he was 17, was resentenced in June to life with parole and is awaiting a review. Legislation that takes effect in August makes juvenile lifers eligible for parole after serving 25 years, although prosecutors can still petition judges for no-parole sentences.
The Law: A juvenile tried as an adult can receive a life sentence. Maine eliminated parole more than 40 years ago, so all life sentences are imposed without the possibility of release. But the attorney general’s office says it’s not aware of any cases where a juvenile has been bound over and sentenced to life.
Inmates: About a dozen former teen offenders serving life without parole.
Resentenced or Released: Four of the 12 had their sentences vacated and await resentencing. A larger group, totaling 271, is serving life with the possibility of parole for offenses committed as juveniles, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The ACLU in Maryland filed a federal lawsuit last year arguing that the current parole system doesn’t allow for a meaningful chance for release for juvenile offenders; no such prisoner has won parole in more than 20 years. Last October, the Maryland Parole Commission began reviewing the cases of juvenile lifers. So far, 45 have been scheduled for additional hearings, 20 were referred for psychological assessments, and nine were refused parole, according to Ruth Ogle, of the commission. Two asked for postponements. She did not know how many parole recommendations have been sent to the governor.
The Law: Juveniles can still get life without parole for homicide, but judges can use their discretion to suspend any number of years off the term. In cases involving juveniles, judges are required to consider a number of factors including age and whether the crime reflects transient immaturity or irreparable corruption.
Inmates: Originally 63 convicted as juveniles and ordered to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
Resentenced or Released: Of the 63, 10 have been paroled. Another was released after pleading guilty to manslaughter when granted a new trial. Twenty others have been denied parole during hearings that have been underway for about three years. The remaining are either awaiting hearings, have asked for postponements or have a date at which they will be released, if they meet certain requirements.
The Law: A 2013 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court invalidated a law that allowed mandatory life without parole for juveniles homicide offenders. The court said its ruling was retroactive and those already serving their sentences must be given parole hearings after serving a minimum of 15 years. In 2014, Massachusetts law established a three-tier system of parole eligibility for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder. Under the measure, they are eligible for parole in 20 to 30 years, depending on the specifics of the crime.
Inmates: 363 serving mandatory life without parole at the time of the 2016 Supreme Court decision.
Resentenced or Released: About 86 juvenile lifers have been sentenced to a term of years, 47 of whom became immediately eligible for parole, according to defense lawyer Deb LaBelle. Twenty-two have been released. Prosecutors have sought stays in almost all the remaining cases until the Michigan Supreme Court decides whether judges or juries will hear them. They’re seeking life without parole again for more than 200 — or nearly two-thirds — of the juvenile lifers. Defense attorneys have sued in some counties. Prosecutors want no-parole for 44 of 49 juvenile lifers in Oakland County, 23 of 26 in Genesee County, and nine of nine in Kalamazoo County. In Wayne County, meantime, the prosecutor’s office has recommended a term of years in at least 82 cases and has recommended life without parole in 62 others.
The Law: After the 2012 ban on mandatory life without parole for juveniles, state lawmakers passed a measure that said if the ruling became retroactive and if the prosecutor didn’t seek a no-parole term within a certain amount of time, the inmates must be resentenced to parole-eligible sentences. The 2016 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court triggered resentencings, which began last September.
Resentenced or Released: Seven of the eight were resentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 30 years. The final inmate still awaits resentencing. Last year, the Minnesota Supreme Court found the courts couldn’t go back and hold new sentencing hearings because so much time had passed in some of these cases. Instead, the court ruled that all the juveniles who were previously given mandatory life without release would be allowed to seek release after 30 years.
The Law: State law has not been changed to ban mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, but the state Supreme Court ruling revived an older law and applied that to juveniles, essentially doing away with mandatory life without parole for them. The state is still wrestling with how to handle offenders who killed multiple victims as teenagers and are serving more than one life sentence. The amount of years that must be served before parole varies greatly depending on whether multiple sentences are served consecutively or concurrently. The Minnesota Supreme Court recently upheld three consecutive sentences for Mahdi Hassan Ali, who was 17 when he killed three people in a market. He won’t be eligible for parole for 90 years. The defense is asking for a U.S. Supreme Court review.
Resentenced or Released: Of those, about 50 await resentencing, 28 got new sentences that now have the possibility of parole and seven others were resentenced to life without parole, according to Andre’ de Gruy, state public defender. One inmate died before resentencing.
The Law: A case that awaits consideration in the state Court of Appeals could eventually provide a consistent answer on how these matters should be handled and whether judges or juries should impose new sentences. Presently, any offender serving life with the possibility of parole may seek release after serving 10 years.
Inmates: 94, according to a review of data by the state Department of Corrections.
Resentenced or Released: A state law passed in 2016 allows those inmates to argue for parole after serving 25 years. Since last fall, 20 of 23 juvenile lifers who have sought release have been denied, according to the MacArthur Justice Center, which filed suit this year accusing the Missouri Department of Corrections and the state’s parole board of running a system that denies juvenile lifers a fair opportunity for release. The state Supreme Court in July opened the door for additional challenges from other inmates; the court ordered a new sentencing hearing for a former teen offender serving life with parole after 50 years, saying his youth and maturity level at the time of the crime must be weighed.
The Law: A 2016 law provides a range of terms for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder: life without parole, life with parole, or a sentence of between 30 and 40 years. To impose life without parole, a jury must unanimously agree that prosecutors have proven additional factors.
Inmates: Two inmates serving life for murders committed when they were 17.
Resentenced or Released: One, serving a 100-year sentence for a fatal beating, is asking for the state Supreme Court to order parole eligibility or a new sentencing hearing to comply with U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Attorneys for the other inmate, sentenced to three consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole for killing a family during a robbery, have moved to stay his appeal until the other case is decided.
The Law: In 2007, the state abolished life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders. However, judges have discretion to suspend parole-eligible sentences and make offenders serve out their terms, but that has never happened in the case of a juvenile offender, according to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.
Inmates: 22 former teen offenders had life without parole.
Resentenced or Released: All but three of the 22 have been resentenced, several to de facto life sentences of 70 to 90 years. Some inmates who received those lengthy sentences challenged them, but their appeals were rejected by the Nebraska Supreme Court. Five other juvenile lifers have been released.
The Law: A law was passed in 2013 imposing 40 year to life sentences for the most serious crimes for juveniles, who are eligible for parole after serving half of their minimum sentence. The measure requires the sentencing judges to consider several factors, including age and intellectual capacity. It also requires the state parole board to review these inmates’ cases once a year after they begin serving their sentences and consider similar mitigating factors.
Inmates: 19 inmates who were sentenced to death or life without parole for crimes committed at age 17 or younger are still in prison, said Nancy Flores, an offender management official in the Nevada State Department of Corrections.
Resentenced or Released: A state law that took effect in October 2015 made 24 Nevada inmates eligible for parole hearings if they were juveniles at the time of the crime, had not been convicted of multiple murders and had already served 20 years, said Kristina Wildeveld, a Las Vegas lawyer. Five were granted parole. One inmate was resentenced to life in prison without parole. An appeal is pending before the Nevada Supreme Court in the case of a second inmate, now 40, who argues he is constitutionally entitled to another sentencing hearing thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
The Law: The 2015 law banned life without parole for juveniles and provides parole eligibility after 15 or 20 years served, depending on the crime.
Inmates: Five who had life-without-parole sentences for crimes committed when they were 17.
Resentenced or Released: Of the five, one was resentenced to life without parole. He refused to attend his hearing and didn’t authorize his lawyers to argue for a lesser sentence. Hearings have been scheduled for two of the others. The other two haven’t been scheduled.
The Law: There have been no changes to New Hampshire statutes regarding juvenile offenders following the Supreme Court rulings. Juveniles can still be certified to stand trial as adults, but they will no longer automatically be sentenced to life without parole for crimes that carry that sentence.
Inmates: Unclear. The state Department of Corrections says it doesn’t keep records of how many inmates, if any, are serving life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles.
The Law: In January, the state Supreme Court ordered new sentences be granted to two inmates serving de facto life terms for crimes committed when they were under 18. One was sentenced to 110 years and would have to serve 55 years before being eligible for parole; the other received a 75-year sentence and would be eligible for parole after about 68 years. The court noted both defendants would “likely serve more time in jail than an adult sentenced to actual life without parole.” The court also called on the Legislature to develop a mechanism to review juvenile sentences with lengthy terms before parole eligibility. On July 21, Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a measure prohibiting mandatory life without parole for juveniles and making them eligible for parole after 30 years.
Inmates: None, although the state Supreme Court is reviewing the sentence of 36-year-old Joel Ira, who was convicted on multiple counts of rape as a teen and isn’t eligible for parole until at least age 62. He is petitioning for release, with his lawyer arguing that sentence could be considered a de facto life without parole term. State records show Ira is among roughly 100 inmates in New Mexico sentenced to 20 years or more for crimes committed as juveniles.
The Law: Judges have broad authority to decide whether to sentence youth convicted of serious crimes as juveniles or adults. This means juveniles could theoretically receive a sentence of life without parole for first-degree murder with aggravating factors, but such sentences are exceedingly rare in the state even for adults. Judges can also hand down multiple lengthy prison terms and order them to be served consecutively, for major crimes, which is how the judge ruled in Ira’s case two decades ago.
Inmates: None, according to the state corrections department.
The Law: Life without parole is only a sentencing option for juveniles convicted of the crime of terrorism in New York, though no juvenile has ever been convicted of that crime. The New York Board of Parole has begun taking an offender’s youth at the time of the crime into consideration in parole decisions following court rulings that youthful offenders must have a meaningful chance for release. Regulations codifying the change are expected soon.
Inmates: 93 originally serving life without parole for juvenile crimes.
Resentenced or Released: Of the 93, 30 got resentencing hearings. Of those, six received new life-without-parole sentences and 24 will be eligible for release at some point, according to Ben Finholt, staff attorney at North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services. In addition to the 30 who got resentencing hearings, one offender was awarded a new trial and another received a sentence that could be up to more than 31 years as a result of negotiations between the public defender and the district attorney’s office.
The Law: Before the Supreme Court ruling in 2012, any juvenile convicted of first-degree murder was automatically sentenced to life without parole. That same year, the state law was changed so any of these offenders serving that sentence or convicted of first-degree murder must receive a sentencing hearing. Inmates may be eligible for parole after 25 years if a judge determines the killing wasn’t premeditated and deliberate.
Inmates: One inmate is serving life without parole for a fatal shooting committed at 17.
Resentenced or Released: A judge in January rejected the inmate’s petition for a new sentence.
The Law: In April, the governor signed into law a measure banning life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. The law also allows offenders under 18 who were convicted of serious crimes to seek judicial review to demonstrate they’re deserving of a second chance after 20 years.
Inmates: At least 41 inmates serving life without parole for crimes committed while they were juveniles, according to the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System.
Resentenced or Released: None, though two cases have been remanded to district court for resentencing. There is no specific review process to deal with these cases. In Oklahoma County, the state’s largest, a handful of resentencing motions have been filed. Prosecutor Scott Rowland said the office would address each on a case-by-case basis.
The Law: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals spelled out new sentencing guidelines last year when it tossed the life-without-parole sentence of Chancey Luna, who was 16 when he fatally shot Christopher Lane, a college baseball player from Australia. The court developed new instructions for juries to consider before imposing a no-parole sentence on minors, and said the sentence is prohibited unless “you find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is irreparably corrupt and permanently incorrigible.”
Inmates: Eight serving life sentences without parole for homicides they committed or were involved in when they were under 18, according to state prison records. Several more are serving de facto life sentences, terms so long they amount to death behind bars.
Resentenced or Released: Some of the eight have appeals pending. One offender, Devonere Simmonds, argues his age entitles him to a sentencing hearing similar to what death penalty defendants receive, where inmates can present evidence. A state appeals court said in May that failing to model a juvenile’s sentencing hearing after one for the death penalty isn’t enough to overturn the sentence. But the court also noted “that rigorous consideration of an offender’s youth is required in sentencing a juvenile to life without parole.” At 17, Simmonds went on a crime spree that left two people dead. The appeals court left his no-parole sentence in place. The Ohio Supreme Court last year overturned a de facto sentence of 112 years for kidnapping, robbery and rape, ruling it cruel and unusual because the offender was a minor. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is pending. The Ohio Public Defender’s Office is reviewing other cases involving former juvenile offenders.
The Law: Juveniles can still get life without parole for aggravated murder if they’re first bound over to adult court.
Inmates: Five serving life without parole for murders they committed from ages 15 to 17. These sentences have always been discretionary. Another seven men who committed crimes as juveniles are serving de facto life sentences because they’re not eligible for release until they’re over 65. They include Kip Kinkel, who killed his parents in 1998 and then went on a deadly shooting spree at Thurston High School in Springfield that left two students dead and 25 wounded.
Resentenced or Released: Since the Supreme Court decisions, Oregon has resentenced one inmate, Justin Link, who’d been among three teens, including the victim’s son, convicted of murder. Link got a new life sentence, but is eligible for parole after 30 years. In Kinkel’s case, the Oregon Court of Appeals last year affirmed a judge’s ruling that his 111-year sentence does not violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The court said Kinkel challenged his sentence as cruel and unusual in an earlier appeal and state law prohibits him from bringing back the same argument.
The Law: Life without parole is discretionary in the state. A jury decides whether to impose the penalty, but a defendant can waive that right and ask a judge to rule.
Inmates: 517 serving mandatory life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles at the time of the January 2016 Supreme Court decision — more than any other state.
Resentenced or released: 116 have been resentenced as of July 25, according to corrections officials. They include two inmates resentenced to life without parole since the Supreme Court’s ruling last year. Another six inmates were resentenced to life without parole earlier, and could eventually be resentenced again. So far 58 have been released, and five others were denied parole. Three others died in prison. About 300 of the cases originate in Philadelphia, where judges have fast-tracked the cases of some of the longest-serving inmates, approving new sentences negotiated by the district attorney’s office and defenders. Courts have just begun dealing with cases where lawyers cannot agree on a new term.
The Law: After the Supreme Court banned mandatory life terms for juveniles in 2012, Pennsylvania’s highest court ruled the decision did not apply to inmates already serving such sentences. That year, lawmakers approved new sentences for juvenile killers of 20-35 years before parole, depending on the crime and age of the offender, but life without parole was still an option. This year, the state Supreme Court ruled again, finding that a sentence of juvenile life without parole must be rare and prosecutors must first prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender is beyond rehabilitation. People on both sides said the ruling could effectively eliminate life without parole for juvenile offenders in the state.
Inmates: None. The state has never sought a life-without-parole sentence for a juvenile.
The Law: The Senate voted 28-8 this year to pass legislation that would effectively eliminate life without parole for juveniles, but the measure did not pass the House. State Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has said prosecutors shouldn’t be precluded from seeking a life sentence without parole for a juvenile who commits an “unimaginably horrific crime.”
Inmates: 38 who had juvenile life-without-parole sentences.
Resentenced or Released: Three had death sentences reduced after the U.S. Supreme Court banned capital punishment for juvenile offenders. Three others have been resentenced to new terms that range from 30 to 40 years; a fourth is awaiting resentencing.
The Law: In 2014, the state Supreme Court ruled that life without parole is unconstitutional for juveniles, ordering that such inmates could request resentencing.
Inmates: Three who had life without parole.
Resentenced or Released: All have been resentenced; one is eligible for parole next year. The two others were 14 when they committed murder; one received two concurrent 200-year sentences, the other a 92-year sentence. Both challenged the sentences, which were upheld by the South Dakota Supreme Court. Both, however, will be eligible for parole.
The Law: Last year, the state abolished life in prison for those under 18.
Inmates: 13 inmates serving life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles; roughly 100 other juvenile offenders who must serve a minimum of 51 years before being eligible for parole.
Resentenced or Released: The state so far is not offering resentencing to the 13 juvenile life-without-parole inmates. As for the others, officials with Nashville’s Juvenile Court have been pushing to reduce lengthy parole-eligible terms to 20 years for juvenile offenders. A state task force could recommend changes.
The Law: State lawmakers considered a bill this year that would allow juveniles to be eligible for parole after 20 years in prison. The bill was amended to make it 30 years, but the measure was pulled. The bill will be considered again next year.
Inmates: 12 serving mandatory life-without-parole sentences for crimes committed as juveniles.
Resentenced or Released: None of the 12. Lawmakers in 2009 passed legislation banning life without parole for offenders 16 and younger and then, four years later, prohibited the sentence for 17-year-olds as well — instead mandating a sentence of life with the opportunity for parole after 40 years. A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said any juvenile offender whose case was still being tried or was in the appeals process when the changes passed was resentenced. Twenty-three inmates now have life with parole at 40 years after those changes and resentencing appeals. Because the changes were not applied retroactively, the remaining 12 no-parole inmates must ask for new punishment hearings.
The Law: A bill that would have cut in half the amount of time served before juvenile offenders are eligible for parole died this year in the state Legislature. Advocates plan to revive it next session. The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition said more than 2,100 juvenile inmates would have qualified for parole sooner. The law would also have required the Board of Pardons and Paroles to consider the “growth and maturity” of a youthful offender.
Inmates: Two serving discretionary life-without-parole sentences for crimes committed as juveniles.
Resentenced or Released: One was denied a request for resentencing based on the argument that his attorney didn’t properly explain what he was agreeing to in a plea deal. The other appealed, arguing his sentence was “cruel and unusual” due to his age. The Utah Supreme Court in 2015 denied his appeal, upholding his sentence.
The Law: Although Utah law never required life in prison without parole for any juvenile – it was discretionary – the Legislature in 2016 eliminated the sentence of life in prison without parole for any defendant younger than 18 at the time of the offense.
The Law: In 2015, Vermont eliminated life without parole for teens 17 and younger.
Inmates: 51 serving life without parole for crimes committed before 18. According to the Virginia Department of Corrections: 12 were convicted of capital murder, 27 of homicide, nine of abduction, two of rape/sexual assault and one of robbery.
Resentenced or Released: At least two have been resentenced despite a debate over whether its juvenile lifers fall under the Supreme Court rulings. In the capital murder cases, attorneys say the inmates are entitled to new sentences because state law gives judges just one option in sentencing: life without parole. But the state Supreme Court denied one inmate’s appeal, saying his sentence wasn’t mandatory because judges can give inmates less than life by suspending all or part of a sentence. That inmate has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meantime, some juvenile lifers are getting a different outcome in federal courts in Virginia. After a federal judge ordered a new sentence for a man who was 17 when convicted of capital murder, he was resentenced in May and should serve three to four more years. Another man convicted of capital murder as a teen was recently resentenced to 99 years. A federal judge in Norfolk also recently ruled that convicted sniper Lee Malvo is entitled to new sentencing hearings. Virginia’s attorney general is appealing that.
The Law: Life without parole is still on the books in Virginia. People convicted of capital murder for crimes committed as adults can be sentenced to death, but Virginia law says that for juveniles the punishment “shall be” imprisonment for life. The sentence is also an option for other serious crimes committed by juveniles.
Inmates: 14 serving life without parole for crimes committed while juveniles, according to the Department of Corrections.
Resentenced or Released: 17 others have been resentenced; two received new life-without-parole terms.
The Law: Before 2014, juvenile offenders were treated the same as adults and would automatically get life without parole for first-degree murder. In 2014 and 2015, lawmakers revised a statute to include specific sentencing instructions for 16- and 17-year-old offenders convicted of aggravated first-degree murder to ensure that mitigating factors be considered. The Legislature also allowed those convicted before turning 18 and sentenced to 20 or more years in prison to petition for release after 20 years.
Inmates: None currently serving life without parole.
Resentenced or Released: In 2014, two years after the Supreme Court banned mandatory life without parole for juvenile killers, lawmakers enacted a measure that said anyone under 18 shall be eligible for parole after serving 15 years for serious crimes. The Parole Board applied the legislation retroactively and identified seven juvenile lifers in murder cases for whom the new terms were applied. Five were denied parole after hearings in 2014 and will next appear in September. Of the other two inmates, one has a parole hearing in December; the other in October 2023.
The Law: Life without parole is prohibited for juvenile offenders.
Inmates: Three men are serving discretionary life-without-parole sentences. Another 70 juvenile offenders are serving life with the possibility of parole but are unlikely to be released because parole is so rare.
Resentenced or Released: None. One of the juvenile lifers asked for a parole hearing based on the Supreme Court’s ruling but was denied.
The Law: Wisconsin has no mandatory life sentence without parole for juveniles. Judges can impose that sentence at their discretion, however.
Inmates: None currently serving life without parole. Previously 13 had the sentence.
Resentenced or Released: The state scrapped mandatory life without parole for juveniles in 2013 and passed a law making inmates eligible for parole after serving at least 25 years. Since then, one inmate has been freed; another was granted parole July 19 and may be released soon. The others will be eligible for parole hearings at some point.
The Law: The 2013 law banned life without parole for minors and makes them eligible for parole after 25 years, provided they haven’t committed serious crimes in prison.
Inmates: 38 sentenced as juveniles to life without parole, according to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. That includes those whose sentences were mandated by law, and others who got that term at a judge’s discretion. The Federal Bureau of Prisons says it’s aware of only 20 such inmates.
Resentenced or Released: The Campaign says 23 federal juvenile lifers have been resentenced. Court briefs filed by federal officials identify 26 juvenile life inmates by name, at least 18 who have been resentenced. Two were resentenced to life without parole; others received shorter terms. One has been released.
The Law: The Justice Department in a 2015 brief supported resentencing of juvenile lifers, but some federal prosecutors continue to seek life without parole for some offenders getting new hearings.
Read more about the series: https://apnews.com/tag/LockedUpForLife