I’ve written previously about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama striking down mandatory life sentences without parole for killers who were juveniles at the time of their crime. Wyoming has now enacted a law giving convicted killers who were under 18 at the time the chance for parole after serving 25 years, or if their sentence is commuted. Life without parole is still an optional sentence for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder if a judge determines such a sentence is appropriate after a special hearing addressing maturity, juvenile record, and prospects for rehabilitiation. But LWOP can no longer be mandated by sentencing laws.
A 16 y.o. Wyoming man convicted of murder after the Miller decision was sentenced to LWOP and appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court, which threw out the sentence. The Legislature then adopted this change, which is not retroactive–eight juveniles sentenced to LWOP under the former law still have no right to parole.
As a Wyoming lawyer affiliated with the ACLU says, most states have not yet responded to the Miller ruling. Whether by judicial decision or legislative action, we will be seeing more similar changes in the years to come. (Post based on reporting from the Billings Gazette.)
(Illustration: “In the Clearwater Valley,” pastel on suedeboard, by me.)