October 21, 2015

By Irene Burski

Three years ago, in the 2012 Miller v. Alabama ruling, the Supreme Court struck down the practice of handing out automatic life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of murder. In hearing this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether this earlier ruling will apply retroactively to juvenile murderers that have already been sentenced to life in prison, some of who have been serving out their sentences for decades.

Henry Montgomery, convicted of shooting Sheriff Deputy Charles Hurt in the days leading up to the Kennedy assassination in 1963, has spent his life behind bars ever since. In his time there, he has become a boxing coach, reports the Associated Press. He was convicted after a second trial, with his first trial being overturned as it was not considered fair because of community prejudice.

The state of Louisiana, in their review of Montgomery’s appeal, decided not to apply retroactively the 2012 Miller ruling. The Supreme Court, in the course of their decision, will also be deciding whether they have the power to overrule the state of Louisiana.

The Miller decision was a narrow 5-4 ruling in favor of Miller, so the margin for the court’s decision for Montgomery could fall along similar lines. Research demonstrates that the likelihood to offend decreases sharply with age, meaning that younger people, whose brains are still developing, are much more predisposed to crime.

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