On a summer day in 1970, two Chicago Police officers assigned to the “walk and talk” team, meant to improve relations between police and the community at the Cabrini-Green public housing projects, were walking across a field when gunfire erupted. Surrounded by the high-rise buildings, snipers fired on the men, killing them both.
While the man behind the landmark decision that ended mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles waits for a new sentence, other inmates given the same term are getting a shot at eventual freedom.
Texas state Rep. Gene Wu is getting frustrated. Legislatures around the country are voting to treat 17-year-old offenders as juveniles while his own state remains in a shrinking — and he says wrongheaded — club that charges them as adults, no matter the crime. Neighboring Louisiana acted last year, as did South Carolina, leaving just seven states nationwide that still prosecute all youth under 18 as adults.
A Michigan state court case says some 350 people given mandatory no-parole sentences for murders committed as juveniles must serve their full sentences. But in the coming days, a federal court is expected to opine on a similar question. A federal court in Michigan will soon rule on the constitutionality of automatic, no-appeal life sentences given to 13 people over the last few decades. The offenders in Hill et. al.
More than two years after U.S. Supreme Court decisions started throwing out mandatory death and life sentences for minors, judges in Washington, Illinois and dozens of other states still lack guidance on what to do with juveniles past and present convicted of murder and some other serious felonies. “Courts are uncomfortable in trying to figure out what ‘life’ means in terms of years,” said Kimberly Ambrose, senior law lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law. She represented Guadalupe Solis-Diaz at the state’s Court of Appeals, arguing against a 92-year sentence he’s serving for six counts of first-degree assault and other charges for his role in a drive-by shooting. The then 16-year-old Solis-Diaz fired into a crowd in Centralia, Wash., in 2007, though did not injure his target or anyone else. It’s not clear in Washington if those 92 years are equivalent to what the U.S. Supreme Court calls “life” sentences.
Today, anyone can create a video and post it on the Internet for millions to see. But law enforcement and the courts are struggling to keep up with the innovations. In Michigan, a 21-year-old musician Evan Emory has been charged with creating and distributing child pornography after he edited a video to make it look like an audience of children was listening to him sing a song with sexually explicit lyrics. He than posted the video on YouTube. If convicted, Emory could face 20 years in jail and be forced to join the sex offender registry. The first-graders were filmed while Emory performed children’s songs at the local elementary school. After the children left, Emory taped himself singing the racy song. He later cut the two together. The video included a disclaimer the children, who were readily identifiable, were not present during the performance of the song. According to a story in The New York Times, reactions to the video and Emory’s arrest have been split. Many do not believe it could be considered child pornography, although most feel the video was in poor taste. JJIE.org recently covered another case involving the digital manipulation of children’s images. The Second Court of Appeals, in New York, upheld the conviction of a man who pasted the faces of underage girls on the naked bodies of adults.