Skip to main content

How MN is affected by the Supreme Court's juvenile life sentence decision

  • Author:
  • Updated:

The Supreme Court decided Monday its previous ruling that put an end to mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles is retroactive – meaning it applies to those who were sentenced even before the decision.

In 2012, in the case Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to impose mandatory life without parole sentences on juveniles, because even children who commit the "most heinous murders" are capable of change.

Minnesota was the first state to rule the court's decision did not apply retroactively – and was ultimately one of six states to come to that conclusion, Courthouse News Service reported.

But the Supreme Court's decision Monday – Montgomery v. Louisiana – rules Miller v. Alabama is indeed applicable to earlier cases.

"Prisoners ... must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored,” the ruling says.

That means anyone who was under the age of 18 when they were convicted of murder and sentenced to mandatory life without parole should be given some sort of relief – either new sentencing or the chance to argue for parole, Perry Moriearty, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who focuses on juvenile justice, explained to BringMeTheNews.

The Supreme Court leaves it up to the states though to decide exactly how to move forward, Moriearty notes.

How it affects Minnesota

In Minnesota, she says, there are eight people who received mandatory life sentences as teenagers that could be affected by this ruling.

The ruling doesn't require states to re-litigate sentences or convictions in every case that involves a juvenile who was sentenced to mandatory life without parole – instead of re-sentencing them, states may allow them to be considered for parole.

But that's more complicated in Minnesota, which doesn't have a parole board for felony offenders. So it will likely be up to the state legislators to decide how to move forward in the wake of these Supreme Court decisions.

A bill abolishing mandatory life without parole for juveniles is expected in the upcoming session, Moriearty says, noting similar bills have been introduced in previous years.

But in the meantime, judges could decide on a case-by-case basis to re-sentence those affected by the Supreme Court's ruling.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 5.46.37 PM

Video shows officers ended pursuit before fatal crash in Anoka

The crash occurred when the driver fled police during an attempted traffic stop in Coon Rapids.

Eli Hart

6-year-old Eli Hart identified as boy found dead in car trunk

The kindergartner's father was trying to get full custody of his son.


Boy found dead in trunk of car in Mound was kindergartner

"It is horrifying and difficult to process a tragedy of this magnitude, especially in our close-knit community," the superintendent wrote.

Minneapolis police

Man found yelling for help after being shot in Minneapolis

The shooting occurred on the 800 block of Elwood Avenue North at around 9:15 p.m.

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 9.56.21 AM

Minneapolis North principal says she was fired, district says otherwise

“MPS requires schools to follow protocols in times like that and I did not,” Friestleben said.

Kris Richard Severin

Inmate who escaped Minnesota prison is captured

The inmate escaped Wednesday morning.

Brave New Comedy Workshop in downtown Minneapolis.

Brave New Workshop cancels shows due to COVID-19 cases

The shows were scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre.

Austin Retterath

Body of missing U of M student found in Mississippi River

Austin Retterath was last seen alive in the morning hours of May 8.

"Love" mural seen in St. Paul.

Summer mural events to bring together community, shine light on MN artists

The 2022 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival will take place this weekend in St. Paul's Creative Enterprise Zone, with ensuing events happening this summer.


Gallery: Remodeled lakeside home in Prior Lake on market for $2.8M

It offers privacy at the end of a dead-end road fronting onto Lower Prior Lake.

golden valley police department

Carjacking outside ice arena in Golden Valley under investigation

Golden Valley PD confirmed it received a report of a carjacking Monday evening.