Raleigh, NC (PRWEB) July 08, 2012
Under the recent United States Supreme Court ruling of Miller V. Alabama, sentencing a minor (defined as a person under the age of 18 at the time of the offense) to life imprisonment without parole has been declared unconstitutional, stating that it violates the 8th amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the Supreme Court decision stating that she wanted the court system to “take into account how children are different” and after the Court ruling that difference will now lead to a lesser sentence for a juvenile than it would for an adult (18 or older).
Raleigh Criminal Attorney and Raleigh DWI Attorney M. Moseley Matheson is proud to see the steps the North Carolina House of Representatives and Senate have been taking towards eliminating life sentences without parole for minors by approving the Senate Bill 635, which gives Judges discretion when sentencing juvenile offenders and to allow parole for others as he or she feels necessary. Prior to sentencing the adolescent convicted of premeditated murder to life without parole, the judge must first hold a sentencing hearing to consider all of the mitigating factors relating to the character and situation of the defendant. The mitigating factors that the judge must consider include, but are not limited to: age at the time of the offense, immaturity, ability to understand the risks and consequences of their conduct, intellectual capacity, prior record, mental health, familial or peer pressure forced upon the defendant, and the likelihood that the defendant will benefit from rehabilitation in confinement. Once the judge has heard all mitigating factors that apply to the defendant, the factors are then weighed with the seriousness of the crime committed, and the nature of the crime committed. If the judge sees it unnecessary that the defendant serve life imprisonment without parole, the judge can then grant the defendant the privilege of parole. On the other hand, if the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating, the Senate Bill 635 states that the judge has the authority to ensure that the defendant “shall remain imprisoned for the rest of the defendant’s natural life.”
During the trial to determine the sentence for the defendant, the judge listens to arguments and counter arguments from the defense and the prosecution. Neither side is required to resubmit evidence from earlier phases of the case, but is permitted to introduce any new evidence that the court deems relevant to sentencing matters. The defense is granted the opportunity to have the final argument in this sort of trial.
This bill applies to any person under the age of eighteen at the time they committed a North Carolina Felony first-degree murder and were sentenced to life without parole, which defined by the Senate Bill 635 is “a minimum of 25 years imprisonment prior to becoming eligible for parole.” This bill is expected to affect approximately 100 current teenagers waiting to be sentenced, and another 88 current inmates who were also sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for a crime they committed before reaching the age of 18. All of the current inmates are to have their cases re-examined and to have another hearing held for resentencing purposes.
“Though the crimes associated with this recent charge are as serious as they come, I am very glad that they Government is ensuring that a Judge is considering all factors of the Juvenile Defendant’s case before sentencing them to prison for the rest of their lives.” Raleigh DWI Defense Attorney and Cary Criminal Defense Attorney M. Moseley Matheson stated. “Throughout our criminal justice system, there are safeguards which take into consideration the mental capabilities of not just North Carolina Juvenile Defendants, but also those adult Defendant’s with diminished capacity. This change will continue that tradition of requiring the courts to consider the age, background and capabilities when sentencing a juvenile.”