By: Halee Snellgrove Maturin
In 1963, here in East Baton Rouge, 17-year-old Henry Montgomery was found guilty of murdering a police officer, Charles Hurt. While he was initially sentenced to death, the judge declared a mistrial and as a result of this second trial, Montgomery was found guilty without capital punishment. Under then-existing Louisiana law, this verdict required the trial court to impose an automatic sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
Almost 50 years after Montgomery’s life sentence, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Miller v. Alabama, in which they held that imposing mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without parole for juvenile homicide offenders violates the 8th Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Miller now requires that sentencing courts consider the juvenile’s age, diminished culpability, and heightened capacity for change and reform when determining their sentence. (more…)