My New York Times Entry on Retroactivity and Juvenile Sentencing

The New York Times “room for debate” feature is on the surprisingly technical question of the retroactivity of Miller v. Alabama — i.e. should those currently sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed while they were juveniles be allowed to reopen their final convictions? (Here’s a ton of background from Doug Berman for the curious.)

I wrote one of the responses. It begins:

As a matter of justice, the case for resentencing seems easy. The Supreme Court said that juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to mandatory life without parole: they have a right to an individual hearing before they can be sentenced to die in prison. And it seems like basic justice that people should not stay in prison if their sentence was imposed illegally. And yet, federal law may not provide a right to resentencing. There may be other ways for prisoners to get relief.

And it ends:

Perhaps juvenile justice advocates should not place their faith in federal courts.

Kent Scheidegger was another contributor, and described himself as “holding up one side versus four others,” but I’m not sure our legal analyses weren’t that different. My view was similar to what I wrote in my Wilson Quarterly essay on executing the “actually innocent.”

UPDATE: Kent has now updated his post to acknowledge my views on federal retroactivity. But as he also notes, “The overall tone of your piece seems to be sympathetic to the murderers.”

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