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Louisiana Supreme Court’s Historic Ruling for Juveniles

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision that sentencing juveniles with life without parole was unconstitutional in 2010, it took Louisiana seven years to act.

During this year’s Louisiana legislative session one of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) reforms included a provision for certain juvenile offenders adjudicated as adults to be eligible for parole.  Additionally, in the 2016 legislative session, a raise the age bill was passed allowing 17-year-olds to be tried as juveniles.

The change to the law brought about by these two seminal pieces of legislation is most timely for Mr. Thayer Green.  Mr. Green’s case, highlighted in a recent article by The Advocate, warranted the Louisiana Supreme Court’s intervention with the court concluding that the case fell within the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 mandate barring life without parole for juveniles.  In 2014, Green, 17 at the time of his crimes, was convicted as a habitual offender and faced a life without parole sentence due to being multiple billed for his crimes.

The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed Green’s convictions in the case, but in a first- of-its-kind ruling in Louisiana, amended his life sentence to delete the restriction for parole eligibility.  The justices also instructed the state Department of Corrections to provide an eligibility date for the Parole Board to consider and sent the Green case back to state District Judge Chip Moore so that the defendant could show that the life term was disproportionate.  The District Attorney in the case is Hillary Moore from East Baton Rouge Parish, who has said  his office does not take exception with the state Supreme Court’s ruling in Green’s case and acknowledges that it is “appropriate under the particular facts and circumstances.”

It is encouraging to see this case being reconsidered and that the legislature and the Louisiana Supreme Court have taken to heart what the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling intended which is to provide a “meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation”.   The Justices also instructed District Judge Moore to ascertain if Green, “indeed poses a grave risk to public safety” noting that the courts must not make any judgment at the outset that the individual will never be fit to rejoin society.

I hope to see more cases in Louisiana like Thayer Green receive the attention and subsequent reconsideration now allowed by law.

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