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Pennsylvania Supreme Court To Hear Arguments On Juvenile Life Sentences

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Gregg_Cherrie--NEW Cherri Gregg
Cherri Gregg is the community affairs reporter for KYW Newsr...
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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear arguments on two cases today that could determine the fate of juveniles serving mandatory life without parole sentences.

In June, the US Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that automatic life without parole sentences are unconstitutional when it comes to juveniles. Pennsylvania has nearly 500 juvenile lifers- the largest number in any one state.

“A lot of the juvenile lifers who are currently serving the sentence have currently filed post conviction petitions.”

Juvenile Law Center attorney Emily Keller says the Pennsylvania Supreme Court must decide whether the apply Miller retroactively and, if so, what new sentence should apply. If the case applies to past cases, some of the inmates could eventually be released.

“Some of the clients that we represent have been serving these sentences for decades and really have come to terms with what they have done and have really matured as people.”

She says one example is 61-year-old Sharon Wiggins.

“She was convicted of a murder that occurred in 1968,” says Keller.” “She’s the longest serving female inmate in the state of Pennsylvania. She’s gotten jobs while she’s been incarcerated, she’s been a mentor for other juvenile mentors for other women incarcerated at SCI Muncy.”

The Commonwealth argues that Miller should apply only to future cases and the new sentence should be life without parole or life with parole.

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