The Michigan Supreme Court just granted permission to appeal on People v Carp and People v Eliason. These cases deal with the retroactivity of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v Alabama (Carp); and the appropriate remedy should be for these individuals (Eliason). The Court has also agreed to hear a third case where the question is whether a juvenile convicted of aiding and abetting first degree murder can potentially receive a natural life sentence or whether Graham v Florida bars this. I will post an update to this with links to the various orders in the near future. In the mean time, here is a good link from M-Live.
In the Second Circuit’s Sept. 26, 2013, reversal, where the order is to “remand the case to the district court with directions that it vacate the sentence and resentence the defendant consistent with this opinion,” Judge Weinstein’s 401-page sentencing opinion came under review, along with the judge’s allegation that a five-year sentence for Corey Reingold was an unconstitutional Eighth Amendment violation. Judge Weinstein had claimed the mandatory minimum a cruel and unusual punishment and had suggested that 30 months would provide enough psychiatric treatment to prevent a repeat offense.
The 2nd Circuit’s reversal, though, found no such constitutional violation and a case analysis gave much attention to Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 (1991), for case specific analysis and Graham v. Florida, 130 S.Ct. 2011 (2010), for categorical rule analysis. The court emphasized, citing Graham, that punishments are deemed cruel and unusual when they are both “inherently barbaric” and “disproportionate to the crime.” A five-year sentence, the court said, requires categorical rules to ensure constitutional proportionality as applied to particular felony crimes or classes of defendants, and the Second Circuit ruled that Judge Weinstein had not employed Graham’s analytic approach to pronounce a categorical rule. Instead, the appellate court said Judge Weinstein had found the five-year minimum disproportionate to the offense as applied specifically to Reingold. “The Supreme Court’s proportionality jurisprudence does not support such a substitution of Graham’s categorical-rule approach for Harmelin’s particular-case approach to assess the proportionality of an otherwise permissible term-of-years sentence as applied to a particular case,” the court said.
The reversal also criticized Judge Weinstein’s emphasis on juvenile offenders. “Reingold was already 19 when he committed the crime of conviction,” the 2nd Circuit’s opinion reads. “In short, he was an adult, not a juvenile.”
Judge Weinstein’s sentencing opinion states that Corey Reingold was 15 when he started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. A year later, the judge wrote, a friend introduced him to child pornography on the Internet. He began watching the material with male and female peers.
Williams - Miller retroactivty
Meanwhile the Legislature has taken action to try and fix things as well. According to this news article, Michigan has proposed a new bipartisan package of bills on JLWOP in response to Miller. News coverage is here: . Here a legislative summary.
In re TD, the Court of Appeals refused to apply the ruling to juveniles. These Defendants were convicted in the Family Division of the Washtenaw County Circuit Court of second degree criminal sexual conduct. Shortly before the Defendant turned eighteen, he petitioned for relief from the sex offender registry. The Washtenaw judge found that the Defendant did not meet the statutory criteria for removal, but found that DiPiazza made the registry unconstitutional punishment. The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office appealed to this ruling to the Lansing Division of the Michigan Court of Appeals. That panel reversed the trial court’s ruling. They distinguished and somewhat criticized the DiPiazza ruling.
Because of a statutory change, the former juveniles in In re TD, however, were relieved from their registration obligations. Taking the case over at the Michigan Supreme Court level, the University of Michigan Juvenile Law Clinic successfully convinced the Michigan Supreme Court to set aside the Court of Appeals ruling. Click here to see their order. This has created as a "reset" and returned the law to a pre-In re TD state. Congratulations to my friend Professor Kim Thomas of the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor on a job well done!
Pennsylvania has three degrees of murder. Murder in the first degree carried natural life or the death penalty. Second degree murder carried a mandatory life without the possibility of parole. Third degree murder is subject to sentencing under Pennsylvania’s Sentencing Guidelines. Pennsylvania Attorney David Lampman has a nice summary of Pennsylvania’s homicide laws.
Update: I just found out that the Pennsylvania Coalition for Fair Sentencing of Youth and its parent national organization have serious problems with this law. They consider the bill a hasty piece of legislation that has been rushed through. Pennsylvania Governor Corbetthas until October 27th to sign or veto the bill. Under Pennsylvania law, the Governor could also line-item veto the JLWOP provisions from the legislation. Stay tuned.
The law is not retroactive to cases that were finalized before the date that Miller was decided (June 24, 2012).
In People v Carp, the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed to hear whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v Alabama is retroactive. Miller struck down mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of murder. Previously, the Court struck down the same punishment as applied to non-murderers.The Court said that life without should rarely be given. One of the two cases that the Court heard was from Arkansas and called Jackson v Hobbs. Since Jackson had already lost his appeal, yet the Supreme Court gave Mr. Jackson the benefit of the ruling, a very good argument exists that Miller is fully retroactive. The Carp pleadings are available here.
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Graham v. Florida, No. 08-7412 and Sullivan v. Florida, 08-7621. In both cases, the Court juvenile offenders were given non-parolable life sentences. Several years ago, the high court struck down the death penalty for juvenile offenders taking notice of cognitive development and the fact that juveniles brains are not fully developed at the time. They neither fully appreciate the consequences of their actions or are as set in their ways as their adult counterparts.According to SCOTUS blog, the oral arguments look promising. Chief Justice Roberts took the lead in arguing that the sanction was too harsh. Stay tuned.
Individuals convicted of sex offenses in Michigan lives a subhuman life even after they are off parole. Michigan’s sex offender registry forces individuals to register for twenty-five years for most offenses and this registration might as well be the kiss of death. Generally, the Courts have been unsympathetic. In People v DePiazza, Court of Appeals No. 284946, the Court of Appeals finally struck down one application of Michigan’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA).
Robert DiPiazza was convicted at the age of eighteen for consensual sex with his then fifteen year old girl friend. (A “Romeo and Juliet” offense). There was no dispute that the act was consensual, the couple subsequently married and are expecting their first child. At the request of the victim’s family, Mr. DiPiazza was given diversion under the Holmes Youthful Trainee act for the reduced offense of attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct and sentenced to probation. In 2005, he completed the probation and the charges were dismissed.
Despite this, Mr. DiPiazza has been forced to register on the sex offender registry and could not hold a job because he was a “registered sex offender.” A unanimous panel fo the Michigan Court of Appeals found that the law was cruel or unusual punishment as applied.
Congratulations to Miriam Auckerman of Legal Aid of Western Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan, and the many other civil rights groups who won this very difficult victory!