Public defender’s division challenges juvenile sentences

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Maryland Office of the Public Defender’s post-conviction division has adopted a strategy to help ensure juveniles convicted of crimes and serving life sentences without the possibility of parole are resentenced following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that such punishments are cruel and unusual.

Under the division’s new Youth-Resentencing Project, attorneys will investigate all life-without-parole cases to determine if the crime occurred before the convict reached age 18 and examine other cases involving juvenile offenders serving long sentences short of life without parole, said division chief Becky Feldman.

“We are looking at what if anything we can do to get them in court, to get them resentenced,” she added.

The project’s launch was spurred by the high court’s 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

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By STEVE LASH September 15, 2015