Supreme Court Ruling May Give Juvenile Lifers In Philadelphia A Second Chance

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There are new protocols in place to help deal with the backlog of juvenile life without parole cases in Philadelphia after the Supreme Court rules such sentences are unconstitutional.

The process laid out by DA Seth Williams would require Philadelphia’s 300 juvenile lifers to seek new sentences at a hearing before a judge. Once that is complete they would have to convince the Pennsylvania Parole Board to set them free.

“We don’t know whether that will lead to favorable outcomes for these individuals or as often happens, nobody will get released.”

Juvenile Law Center Executive Director Marsha Levick is skeptical of using a parole board with limited experience with juvenile cases to decide release; she also questions the DA’s decision to use the state’s mandatory minimum statute as a guideline for new sentences. The law recommends a mandatory 25 to 35 years to life.

“We’d like to see a little more discretion frankly applied to the re-sentencing of these cases, I don’t think we’ll be seeing very much of that.”

Levick predicts lawsuits challenging the use of mandatory minimums in the older juvenile cases are to come.

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