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

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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Cooley partners with local and national legal services organizations to represent hundreds of pro bono clients annually. Through its pro bono work, Cooley empowers individuals to seek justice and opportunity, and provides nonprofit organizations the tools they need to effect change and support underserved communities.

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Related Contacts
Adam Gershenson  Partner Boston
Kathleen R. Hartnett  Partner San Francisco
Robert Jacques  Associate Washington, DC
Matt Nguyen  Associate Washington, DC
ZoĆ« Helstrom  Associate San Francisco
Darina Shtrakhman  Associate San Francisco
Related Practices & Industries

Pro Bono