Sixth Circuit Allows Challenge to Michigan’s Juvenile Lifer Fix

A group of juvenile lifers say the state still won’t give them a meaningful chance at parole.

A federal appeals court says Michigan still has not fixed problems with its juvenile lifer law that was declared unconstitutional four years ago.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down sentences of automatic life without parole for juveniles as cruel and unusual punishment. But a group of lifers sentenced as juveniles say the state is dragging its feet, and still won’t give them a meaningful chance at parole.

“It’s unconstitutional to do this to youth. It’s akin to a death sentence,” says attorney Deborah LaBelle.

There are more than 350 juvenile lifers in Michigan prisons. LaBelle says six have died since the Supreme Court ruling.

The ruling from the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals says a law adopted by the Legislature still falls short of what’s required to comply with the decision. The case was sent back to a federal judge in Detroit.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office says the decision is being reviewed.