Wyoming Law Eliminating Mandatory Juvenile LWOP Won’t Be Retroactive

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Photo by Ryan Schill

A recently-passed Wyoming law barring mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders will not apply to the state’s prisoners currently serving life sentences for crimes they committed as minors, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.
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A bill signed earlier this month by Gov. Matthew Mead allows opportunities for parole after 25 years for juveniles with life sentences. When the law becomes effective this summer, it will not retroactively reduce the sentences of those already serving life without parole sentences for juvenile offenses within the state, according to Deputy Attorney General Dave Delicath.

“Their sentences were within the law allowed at the time,” Delicath told the Star-Tribune. “The statute doesn’t change anything for them.”

Prior to the law’s passage, juveniles in Wyoming convicted of murder could be given sentences of life with or without parole. In the case of life with parole sentences, a governor’s commutation was still required to reduce sentencing, however.

A state American Civil Liberties Union representative, citing Miller v. Alabama and a recent Wyoming Supreme Court decision that voided a life sentence for a prisoner convicted of murder at 16, said the precedents may still lead to possible commutations for the state’s current juvenile offense lifers.

“I think a lot of states haven’t really sussed out what they are going to do yet,” ACLU staff attorney Jennifer Horvath told the Star-Tribune. “We are fortunate that the Legislature moved quickly on this.”

 

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