U.S. Supreme Court rules no life in prison without parole for minors
COLUMBIA - Missouri is scrambling to create a constitutional sentence for juveniles convicted of first degree murder after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday.
The high court ruled that its 2012 ruling banning mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile murderers applies to those previously convicted.
The ruling has reaffirmed that more than 80 Missouri inmates sentenced to life in prison as teenagers could have a chance at freedom.
While some Missouri courts have granted new sentencing hearings for some with appeals pending in 2012, the state Supreme Court hasn't yet ruled on a prior case in which appeals were exhausted.
Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for the Missouri attorney general's office, said the ruling is under review.
The ruling came as state lawmakers are again pushing to change Missouri law on juvenile sentencing to come into compliance with the 2012 ruling.
"Sen. Bob Dixon said Missouri has no alternative sentence that's constitutional for minors convicted of first-degree murder other than life in prison without parole," according to the Associated Press.
Greg Mermelstein, a Missouri public defender specializing in juveniles, said, "Now that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that these juveniles are entitled either to a new sentencing proceeding or entitled to a parole hearring, I think the Missouri Supreme Court is going to have to decide what, if anything, is the Missouri Supreme Court is going to give them."