Supreme Court to decide if ban on mandatory life for juveniles is retroactive

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to revisit its ruling banning mandatory life sentences for juveniles to decide if the decision is retroactive. The court agreed to hear an appeal by lawyers for George Toca. Toca has spent his entire adult life behind bars in Louisiana for killing a friend in an armed robbery in 1984 when both were 17.

Hey, you do an adult crime, you pay the price, no matter what your age.  At 17 you are old enough to know right from wrong.

The court ruled 5-4 in 2012 that imposing a mandatory sentence of life with no parole on teenagers violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. At the time, about 2,000 inmates were believed to be facing life for killings committed while they were juveniles.

A number of states effectively made the ruling retroactive, either through legislative action or state court rulings. Louisiana is not one of them.

Emily Maw, a public defender representing Toca, said he deserves a chance to win parole. She described him as a “peaceful adult.”


The death of Eric Batiste, killed while he and Toca were attempting a robbery, was “unintended and the result of youthful recklessness,” Maw said. She also argued that Toca may not have been the shooter who killed Batiste. The black teenager was identified by two white witnesses Maw said may have been mistaken.

A Louisiana judge ruled shortly after the earlier Supreme Court decision that Toca should be given a parole hearing. But the state Supreme Court reversed that decision.


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