The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Montgomery v. Louisiana, which is expected to clarify whether the Miller v. Alabama decision should be applied retroactively to those sentenced prior to the decision in 2012.
Miller found that it is unconstitutional to impose an automatic life-without-parole sentence upon a child. Ten state supreme courts have since ruled that Miller applies retroactively. Five state supreme courts–including Louisiana, where Henry Montgomery, the petitioner in the new case, is serving–have ruled that Miller does not apply retroactively. Louisiana also is among five states with the majority of the approximately 2,500 people sentenced to life without parole.
“Where a child was sentenced should not determine whether he or she will have an opportunity for review or die in prison,” said CFSY Legal Director Jeff Howard.
Henry Montgomery was sentenced to life without parole for a crime that occurred two weeks after his 17th birthday, in 1963. He has been in prison for more than 50 years.
This is the second case concerning Miller retroactivity the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear this year. In the first, Toca v. Louisiana, the petitioner, George Toca, had been given mandatory life without parole for allegedly shooting his friend during a botched robbery at the age of 17. After the Court agreed to hear the case, prosecutors offered Mr. Toca a plea agreement, which vacated his murder conviction. He accepted the agreement and was released from prison in January.