Former Gov. Milliken urges Lansing to ban juvenile lifer laws

Former Michigan Gov. William Milliken, a Republican from Traverse City, has been a forceful critic of mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders. He filed a friend of the court brief opposing such sentences with the U.S. Supreme Court, and has recruited retired judges and prosecutors to join him in pressuring the state to soften its stance toward young offenders. What follows is Milliken’s “statement of principles” explaining why he agrees with the U.S. Supreme Court’s rationale for why juvenile offenders should be treated differently from adults who commit violent crimes. Milliken, 94, wrote this statement before county prosecutors in Michigan indicated they would oppose sentence reductions for most of the juvenile lifers now behind bars.


WE joined the 2014 Milliken amicus brief advocating that the Michigan Supreme Court apply Miller v Alabama retroactively to the 360+ people serving the unconstitutional sentence of mandatory juvenile life without parole.

WE KNOW THAT scientific research on adolescent brain development proves that youth do not possess the fully developed brains that adults do. The science has led the U.S. Supreme Court to establish the principle that youth should not be held to the same standard of criminal culpability as adults.

WE KNOW THAT the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Montgomery v Louisiana that those people currently serving mandatory life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed as teens were serving constitutionally impermissible sentences. The Montgomery ruling applied the 2012 Miller v Alabama ruling retroactively to people already serving these automatic life sentences.

WE KNOW THAT Michigan is second only to Pennsylvania in the number of people serving life without any possibility for parole for crimes committed as teens.

WE KNOW THAT, in Montgomery, the Court said that a life without parole sentence is always unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment for a juvenile offender unless the youth is found to be "irreparably corrupt" and "permanently incorrigible." Montgomery provides guidance to lower courts that life sentences for youthful defendants are impermissible except for the "rare juvenile offender who exhibits such irretrievable depravity that rehabilitation is impossible."

WE KNOW THAT, since the 2012 Miller ruling, Michigan has ignored the Court’s guidance as to the “rare” youth and applied a life without parole sentence to fifty percent (50%) of youth eligible for that sentence.

WE KNOW THAT the American Probation and Parole Association, American Correctional Association, National Association of Counties, National PTA, American Bar Association, American Psychological Association, Boys Scouts of America, Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, General Synod of the United Church in Christ, Jesuit Conference, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Union for Reform Judaism, United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, Mental Health America and dozens of other organizations have called for the abolishment of juvenile life without parole.

WE URGE the Michigan Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder to ban life without any possibility of parole for youth.

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Patriot Lawyer
Thu, 08/25/2016 - 10:07am
What about the victims? Governor Milliken and his allies are advocating in favor of the criminals. However, they are ignoring the life cut short and the loss, pain and suffering of the victims loved ones. Don't they matter? A life was ended by these convicted murders - it should not matter what age they were when the crime was committed. What about justice for the victims? The former Governor Milliken and his allies should be ashamed of taking this stance on this issue. These inmates are vicious predators who intentionally murdered innocent people in cold blood. They are beyond redemption and do not deserve a 2nd chance to kill someone else – perhaps your loved one. Further, what about the point of prison to be punishment of those who commit heinous acts? There is no true rehabilitation in prison – only “super criminal university” where inmates teach each other how to commit crimes. As Michigan does not execute, they should stay behind bars forever. The fact is that the vast majority of humans do not murder other humans. These inmates have shown they cannot live in society. If these people get out and commit another murder, the blood is on the hands of the liberals supporting this insanity.
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Kevin Grand
Thu, 08/25/2016 - 11:13am
Echoing the comments above, Gov. Milliken; Why are you purposefully ignoring the victims in these killings? Are their unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness somehow negated because they were taken away by a juvenile? As someone who claims to be a Republican, you should be acutely aware of that. Willfully ignoring them only negates each and every principle you've listed above.
Thu, 08/25/2016 - 12:58pm
I'm sure the Gov lives in a big home, maybe he'd be interested in offering a few extra bedrooms up for lodging these boys when they get out? We'd be better off looking at letting out some of the senior lifers, it's a proven fact that they don't reoffend as often as the youngsters.
Alison Goodwin
Thu, 08/25/2016 - 3:44pm
Obviously the offender should serve a fitting sentence; however, when a child commits a crime, there is no way that he or she should be thrown away and given up on at a huge cost to society. Moreover people have the ability to change. As to the person who says let out senior lifers, but not juveniles, please look ahead. Juveniles can be given sentences that last several years, give them time to serve a harsh punishment, rehabilitate, grow older, and then become less likely to commit another crime.They can eventually become contributing members to society. These individuals will eventually become the seniors you are referring to if we don't change this law. If like you say, seniors are less likely to commit violent crimes, then couldn't we extend that to people sentenced as juveniles who are serving lengthy sentences too? We could use the money saved from over incarceration to ACTUALLY helping victims of crime.
Fri, 08/26/2016 - 11:45pm
Ability to change and actually changing are not necessarily one in the same. We already know that the individuals have been sentenced for heinous crimes, they have shown their willingness to "...thrown away..." their victims and much of the lives of those who cared for those victims. They had chosen to do what relatively few people do and yet you seem to believe simply because you want them to change that they will change. Why is there little or no concern, by those who want the convicted killers released, for the unintended consequences of those being released not changing? Why isn't there concern for potential victims if those being released don't change?
Thu, 08/25/2016 - 5:54pm
There are certainly no winners when a crime involves the death of someone and folks can agree or disagree on whether a kid who participates in a homicide should go to prison for life. The issue here, though, is that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that these sentences for youth violate the law and those youth have to be resentenced. The Supreme Court gave clear guidance on what prosecutors must do in the resentencing and Michigan prosecutors don't appear to be following the law. We may not like the law but we have to follow it and so do our prosecutors.