PA Supreme Court To Hear Juvenile Life Sentence Case

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court could choose to hear a case that would move the line between juvenile and adult.

If successful, juveniles over 18 serving mandatory life without parole could have a chance at freedom.

Miller v Alabama is a 2015 US Supreme Court decision that made mandatory life sentences illegal for defendants under 18.

It began a process of evaluated sentences for thousands of juvenile lifers- hundreds here in Philadelphia- some of which have been set free.

“Juveniles have greater potential for reforming their character,” said attorney Bret Grote.

Grote’s clients include Charmaine Pfender who was 18 when she shot a man she claims was trying to rape her.

Grote argues her time in foster care and other abuses left her without the capacity to judge her actions like many youth through their early 20s.

While the US Supreme Court made 18 the cut-off, Grote believes there’s wiggle room.

“In the state of Pennsylvania, 18 is not necessarily the cut-off in the area of the law,” he said.

He says he’ll rely on case law that shows some juveniles are not fully developed mentally until at least 21.

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