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Supreme Court sets new rules for sentencing youth to life

Judge and gavel

Decisions Thursday from the Michigan Supreme Court put new boundaries around life sentences for people 18 and younger convicted of murder

The Michigan Supreme Court has set new boundaries around life sentences for young people convicted of murder.

The majority on a divided court held that automatic sentences of life without parole for defendants 18 or younger constitute “cruel or unusual punishment” under the Michigan Constitution.

Deborah LaBelle is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. She says the decisions require courts to take a highly individualized approach to sentencing juveniles.

“So what the judge should be looking at, is this a child capable of rehabilitation and change as they grow up or are they somehow irredeemable?”

LaBelle says this could affect hundreds of people sent to prison as teenagers, who will now get a chance at parole.

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