Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2011

Abstract

Last term, in Graham v Florida,1 the United States Supreme Court found unconstitutional the sentence of life without parole for a juvenile who committed a non-homicide offense. This attention to the sentencing of juvenile offenders is a continuation of the Court's decision in Roper v Simmons,2 in which the Court held that juvenile offenders could not constitutionally receive the death penalty. This scrutiny should be a signal to Michigan to examine its own jurisprudence on juveniles receiving sentences of life without parole. Michigan has the second-highest number of persons serving sentences of life without parole for offenses committed when they were 17 years old or younger.3 Michigan's constitution, article 1, §16, provides broader protection than the federal constitution under its analogous ban on "cruel or unusual punishment." Further, the confluence of several, separately passed, statutes means that, in many cases, juveniles sentenced to life without parole in Michigan will never have a judge assess anything about their individual culpability, maturity, or relative role in the offense.