Cornell law professors fight legal battle for South Carolina juvenile lifers

NEW YORK — Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June in the Miller v. Alabama case, John Blume, a professor at Cornell Law School, started worrying about his home state of South Carolina.

Blume knew the Miller decision — which ruled that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment — would create a great need for legal work in South Carolina.

The legal limbo created by the Miller decision is not unique to South Carolina, however. Advocates for juvenile sentencing reform estimate there are 2,500 prisoners in nearly 30 states across the country who are serving life sentences without parole, including some 2,100 who were given mandatory sentences. In fact, other states across the country contending with the same confusion have more inmates than the 36 Blume and his team found in need of new remedies to meet the standards of the Miller decision. Pennsylvania, for instance, has around 500 prisoners who could be eligible for new sentences under Miller.

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