The Detroit Justice Center (DJC) is celebrating a recent win. Last week, the Michigan Supreme Court outlawed automatic life sentences for young people convicted of first-degree murder that transpired when they were 18 years old (People v. Parks). The MI Supreme Court also published two opinions and an order that assists with extending the U.S. Miller protections that deem mandatory life without parole unconstitutional for juveniles. The MI Supreme Court held that mandatory life without parole is an unconstitutional sentence for young people convicted of first-degree murder that occurred when they were 18 years old and that life with the possibility of parole is unconstitutional for children convicted of second-degree murder that occurred when they were not yet 18.
The “sentence lacks proportionality because it fails to take into account the mitigating characteristics of youth, specifically late-adolescent brain development,” Justice Elizabeth Welch wrote for the majority.
The MI Supreme Court also issued an order granting leave to appeal for Mr. Antonio Poole, based on their Parks ruling.This is a specific victory for DJC as we are proud that some of our attorneys filed an Amicus Brief in support of Mr. Poole’s request for relief. Staff members of DJC have worked alongside Gabrielle French from the Michigan Center for Youth Justice to shed light on how racism perpetuates mandatory life without parole sentences for young people, not just under 18.
DJC would like to express how proud we are of our partners at the State Appellate Defender’s Office (SADO) who led these efforts. This is one victorious step toward decarceration!