Press Release

Michigan Supreme Court Rules Life Without Parole Disproportionate Punishment for 18-Year-Olds

September 2, 2022

Boston – September 2, 2022 – The Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled in four cases, including People v. Parks and People v. Poole, that sentences of mandatory life without parole (LWOP) for 18 year-old persons violate the Michigan Constitution’s ban on “cruel or unusual” punishment. Cooley submitted amicus briefs in both cases on behalf of neuroscientists, psychologists and criminal justice scholars in support of the incarcerated individuals. Partners Adam Gershenson and Kathleen Hartnett led the Cooley effort, which marshaled scientific evidence to demonstrate why such sentences were invalid, unnecessary and ill-suited for adolescents.

Ten years ago, the US Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama struck down mandatory LWOP sentences for children under 18, holding that such sentences are unconstitutionally excessive for children whose crimes reflect “transient immaturity.” In People v. Parks and People v. Poole, the Michigan Supreme Court addressed the further implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling and rationale for Michigan law. Specifically, the court accepted Cooley’s argument that LWOP sentences fail to consider the mitigating characteristics of late-adolescent brain development, and thus are disproportionate under the Michigan Constitution.

Read the amicus brief

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