Covering Louisiana

Sep 4, 2013 8:53 PM by Tina Macias

Louisiana Supreme Court considers parole for juvenile killers

Convicted killers under 18 can no longer be automatically sentenced to life in prison without parole, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year.

But what about juveniles convicted before 2012? That was the question posed to the Louisiana Supreme Court today.

People like Darryl Tate, who was 17 when he shot and killed a man in New Orleans in 1981, should be eligible for parole under the ruling, Bryan Stevenson of the Tulane Law Center said. He argued that the state has retroactively applied decisions like this before.

And not allowing Tate's sentence to be revisited ignores the substance of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, which says juveniles are fundamentally different from adults and are not fully developed.

But the state argued that juveniles previously sentenced to life have a way to avoid serving the full sentence - a pardon. Other states have not ruled consistently on whether the ruling should be applied retroactively, they argued, and added that although it might not be fair that Tate does not have a chance at parole, it also was not fair for someone else.

"The victim ... it wasn't fair that he was killed for 40 cents in this case," said Scott Gerard Vincent, assistant district attorney for Orleans Parish.

The Louisiana Supreme Court will likely issue an opinion in October on whether it will retroactively apply the ban on life without parole for juveniles.

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