LANSING, Mich. — A special group of appellate judges has heard arguments on whether juries — not trial judges — should sentence teens to life without parole.
Seven members of the Michigan Court of Appeals convened Wednesday to hear conflicting opinions.
A three-judge panel set a key precedent last year in ruling that juries must decide whether someone under 18 gets a no-parole sentence, based off U.S. Supreme Court decisions. A different set of judges had to apply it to a Flint murder case but firmly disagreed.
Genesee County assistant prosecuting attorney Joseph Sawka said a judge has discretion to impose life without parole once jurors find a defendant guilty.
But Kimberly Thomas of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan said letting a judge make such “factual findings” in unconstitutional.