In Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), the United States Supreme Court held that mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional when imposed on juvenile offenders, as they violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Such mandatory sentences, it reasoned, simply do not take into account the unique characteristics of youth. If a life-without-parole sentence are to be imposed, the Court held, a sentencing court is required to taken into account those characteristics. A few years later, in Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), the Court held that its holding had to be applied retroactively. As a result, courts throughout the country were called upon to resentence people serving life-without-parole sentences.
To address these re-sentencings, the Michigan Legislature created statutory requirements for prosecutors seeking to re-impose a life-without-parole sentence and a procedure for resentencing those for whom life-without-parole would not be sought. For those not subject to life-without-parole, court are authorized to impose a term of no more than 60 years’ imprisonment with a minimum term of 25 to 40 years. MCL 769.25a, et seq.
In 2016, the Grand Rapids criminal defense firm Willey & Chamberlain LLP was asked to represent Gregory Wines pro bono who was then serving a life-without-parole sentence. Although the prosecution did not seek life-without-parole, it did seek the statutory maximum sentence of 40 to 60 years’ imprisonment. The sentencing court followed the prosecution’s recommendation The Willey & Chamberlain LLP team, led by Chip Chamberlain, appealed on behalf of Mr. Wines. In People v. Wines, 323 Mich. App. 343; 916 NW2d 855 (2018), the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the sentence and remanded the case requiring the trial court to taken into account the individual characteristics of the defendant.
The prosecution sought leave to appeal from the Michigan Supreme Court, which recently denied leave and remanded the case back to the trial court for it to re-sentence Mr. Wines and evaluate his individual characteristics. The Michigan Supreme Court Order can be found here.
The Wines case stands for the all-important proposition that sentencing must be individualized, and courts are not free to impose harsh sentences and ignore the unique characteristics of the defendant. And the Grand Rapids lawyers at Willey & Chamberlain LLP are proud to have represented Mr. Wines in his long and patient struggle.
Willey & Chamberlain LLP has a robust appellate practice. The Grand Rapids criminal defense lawyers at Willey & Chamberlain are here to answer any questions you may h ave for an appeals lawyer: (616) 458-2212.