Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

Robina Executive Director to Serve on MSBA Commission on Juvenile Sentencing for Heinous Crimes

Robina Institute Executive Director Kelly Mitchell will serve on the Minnesota State Bar Association's (MSBA) Commission on Juvenile Sentencing for Heinous Crimes. The Commission was formed as a way to examine how Minnesota can respond to two rulings on juvenile justice jurisprudence by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Montgomery v. Louisiana on January 25, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a 2012 ruling, Miller v. Alabama, can be applied retroactively. Individuals who were previously sentenced as juveniles to life without the possibility of parole must be considered for parole or given a new sentence, regardless of how long ago the crime occurred. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that states do not have to go so far as to re-sentence those sentenced to life without parole, but that the states can offer parole hearings with no guarantee of release. Limiting the use of life without parole does not guarantee individuals would be released, but it does guarantee an opportunity for a meaningful review. The Court's decisions on juvenile justice relies on the premise that children are constitutionally and developmentally different from adults and that they have greater prospects for reform.

The Minnesota Heinous Crimes Act (Minn. Stat. §609.106) provides that those who commit certain crimes, including first-degree, premeditated murder, will be sentenced to life without the possibility of release. Under Miller, this statute is unconstitutional when applied to juveniles. Since 2012, efforts in Minnesota to revise this statute and bring it into compliance with Miller have failed.

The Commission on Juvenile Sentencing for Heinous Crimes includes a variety of experts and stakeholders who are charged with making recommendations for bringing Minnesota's sentencing requirements into compliance with Miller and and Montgomery. It will be chaired by the Hon. Kathleen Gearin and John Kingrey. In addition to Robina Executive Director Kelly Mitchell and other experts, the Commission will include University of Minnesota Law School Professors Francis Shen and Perry Moriearty. Robina Institute Research Attorney Alexis Watts is one of two reporters for the commission.

For more information on this issue and a complete list of the Commission, visit here.

In February 2015, The American Bar Association (ABA) passed a resolution recommending an end to Life-Without-Parole for Children, initiated by Robina Institute Executive Director, Kelly Mitchell. You can read about that resolution, here.

In February 2016, the Robina Institute held a public event entitled "Kids are Different: Juvenile Life Without Parole and Other Juvenile Justice Issues" at the University of Minnesota Law School. You can learn more about this issue and watch a video of the event, here.