WGVU donate banner

Thursday, November 27, 2014

FacebookFlickrTwitterYouTubeLinkedIn
 
Public Media Catagories
PBS Link Create Link WorldView Link NPR Link Real Oldies Link wgvu
All Things Considered
WGVU Top Story

Michigan Supreme Court to decide fate of 350 juvenile lifers


March 6, 2014 | MPRN  Governor Rick Snyder just signed a new law this week to update Michigan’s sentencing policies to reflect that Supreme Court decision. But that doesn’t settle what happens to Matthew Bentley.

“I was 15 years old and being in a rush to be a man. I made a mistake and now 14 years later I’m still in prison, missing out on everything I was in a rush to get.”

That is Bentley from a podcast provided by the American Civil Liberties Union. He shot and killed a woman during a break-in at her home. He says he would take it all back if he could.

“I sometimes think about what could have happened, what could have been different. There’s a possibility I could have went down a different path, had I gotten some better advice, had I been shown a better way, had I actually had a role model.” 

Because of the US Supreme Court decision, juveniles convicted of murder or aiding and abetting in a murder now must have a hearing that takes into account their circumstances – abuse or neglect, how culpable they were in the crime, things like that. The court said the absence of that made automatic life without parole for juveniles cruel and unusual punishment.

Now, the ACLU and three juvenile lifers are suing the state. They say if automatic life without parole is unconstitutional going forward, then that same logic should apply to those earlier 350-plus cases, some of which date back to the early 1960s.

Kimberly Thomas is a law professor with the University of Michigan’s Juvenile Justice Clinic. She says we’ve learned a lot in recent years about shortcomings in how the legal system deals with juveniles. She says teenagers are often poor clients.

“It’s hard to get them to understand the choices that they’re making. Especially when faced with what might be good plea bargains, they just aren’t making good choices.”

Thomas says representing minors is a unique set of skills that most defense attorneys just don’t have. And she says the proof of that is how often juveniles get tougher sentences than adults involved in the same murders, even when the juvenile was only an accessory to the crime.    

The decision in this case before the state Supreme Court will likely turn on a legal nuance.

To win, the juvenile lifers have to show the US Supreme Court decision represents a substantive change in their legal rights. The state, on the other hand, is arguing that it’s not – that this was a procedural decision. It has no bearing on their guilt or innocence, and that means there’s no responsibility to go back and correct their sentences.

But this is not a nuance for another group of people closely following this case.

“We’re the innocent, and we deserve some kind of closure to this…”

Jody Robinson’s brother was murdered by a 16-year-old and a 19-year-old. And she says don’t call that a “mistake.” Robinson gets angry, visibly upset, when she hears that teens are sentenced to –quote- “die” in prison.

“They weren’t sentenced to die – period. They were sentenced to live the rest of their life in prison. They’re living. They’re not dead, and there’s a big difference between the two.”

Robinson says families like hers will never get their loved ones back -- and changing the rules now would deny them the measure of peace that once came with finality in their cases.

For the Michigan Public Radio Network, I’m Rick Pluta in Lansing  
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

More Mid-Day Features
Yesterday
MiBiz with Mark Sanchez
  November 26, 2014  |  WGVU  Craft breweries are big business in Michigan's urban cities, but small town Main Street is getting in on the act spurring economic activity.   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

Tuesday
WGVU-HD airing FRONTLINE "Ebola Outbreak"
  November 25, 2014  |  WGVU  Sierra Leone, Africa is ground zero for the Ebola outbreak. Frontline follows health officials tracking the deadly disease. Tuesday, November 25th @ 10:00 PM on WGVU-HD.   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download
Innovation Talk
  November 25, 2014  |  WGVU  The year is coming to an end. What can we learn from the Twelve Innovation Lessons for 2014?    
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

Monday
U.S. Rep. Huizenga questions President Obama's immigration order
  November 24, 2014  |  WGVU  In response to President Barack Obama’s executive order protecting roughly 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from deportation, U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga calls it an overreach of Constitutional power.   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

Friday
Mockingjay Part One opens in theaters
  November 21, 2014  |  WGVU  Mockingjay Part One opens today in theaters. Ron Van Timmeran from Celebration talks with WGVU.   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

Wednesday
Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign
Grand Rapids, MI  November 19, 2014  |  WGVU  With the holidays just around the corner the Salvation Army is responding to the growing need in the West Michigan communities kicking off its Red Kettle Campaign.   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download
Artist shares message behind local veteran tribute
  November 19, 2014  |  WGVU  A connection more than four decades in the making led to a Grand Rapids veteran's hometown tribute.   
 Listen    Download Audio File Download

radio
Listen Live to WGVU-AM
Listen Live to WGVU-FM
Follow us on Twitter
WGVU News Page Sponsored by:
Amtrak
 
 
Home    Privacy Policies    Contact WGVU    GVSU.edu    PBS.org    NPR.org
Copyright 1997-2014 | WGVU is a service of Grand Valley State University | GVSU is an EO/AA institution