Arkansas Court OKs New Sentence Hearings For Juvenile Lifers

Sep 22, 2017
Originally published on September 21, 2017 3:41 pm

Arkansas' highest court says Pulaski County judges can hold resentencing hearings for seven inmates sentenced to life terms as juveniles, potentially setting a course for how courts statewide should handle cases from similar inmates in other counties.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life terms without at least a chance at parole. Arkansas legislators subsequently declared such inmates parole-eligible after a term of years, but Pulaski County judges want each inmate to receive an individualized resentencing hearing.

Lawyers for the state argued to the Arkansas Supreme Court that the lawmakers' fix was fine, but justices on Thursday rejected their arguments.

Some judges outside Pulaski County have approved of the Legislature's remedy. Lawyer Jeff Rosenzweig says Thursday's decision will help guide courts outside Little Rock.

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