After 2016 ruling, battles over juvenile lifer cases persist

January 22, 2019

January 21, 2019, Sharon Cohen and Adam Geller - Associated Press

 

Locked up for life at 15, Norman Brown remains defined by the crime that put him behind bars.

 

Twenty-seven years ago, Brown joined a neighbor more than twice his age to rob a jewelry shop in Chesterfield, Missouri, and the man shot the owner to death. The shooter was executed. But state officials, bound by a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, pledged to give Brown an opportunity to get out — then rejected parole in a process a federal judge ruled recently must be overhauled.

 

Three years after the Supreme Court gave inmates like Brown a chance at freedom, the justice system is gaining speed in revisiting scores of cases. About 400 offenders originally sentenced to life without parole as juveniles have been released nationwide, and hundreds of others have been resentenced to shorter terms or made eligible for release by law.

 

But most remain behind bars as prosecutors and judges wrestle with difficult cases. Tensions have mounted and lawsuits have been filed in states like Missouri, while in 21 others, life-without-parole sentences are prohibited for those 17 and younger. About a third of those bans have been approved since 2016, according to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.

 

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