AUSTIN — A U.S. Supreme Court decision extending parole eligibility to convicts serving mandatory life sentences for capital murder committed as juveniles will not impact the 18 Texas prisoners who fit that profile, officials said Tuesday.
On Monday, the high court in a 6-3 decision made retroactive its 2012 decision in an Alabama case that held minors are constitutionally different in culpability and must have the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect “irreparable corruption.”
That will require courts in many states to look at past sentences and review whether those convicts should be given a chance for release.
Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the 18 men serving life without parole for crimes they committed when they were under age 18 will not be affected because of a ruling two years ago by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest court for criminal matters.
“In 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals . . . held that Miller v. Alabama (the earlier Supreme Court case) applied retroactively to juveniles convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole,” Clark said.
He said that Texas court decision allowed affected prisoners to ask for a new sentencing hearing.
Nationally, officials estimate that more than 1,100 men and women serving life sentences for murder will be affected — mostly in Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Michigan, according to court filings.
Shannon Edmonds, with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, a prosecutors’ group, the fate of the 18 Texas convicts is already under review.
The high court’s Monday ruling came in the case of Henry Montgomery, who has spent more than 50 years in Louisiana State Penitentiary for a murder he was convicted of committing when he was 17.
This story was published in the Houston Chronicle on Nov. 26, 2016.