New Jersey’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled to overhaul the way judges sentence juveniles convicted of violent crimes. The decision, made on Wednesday, January 11, 2017, requires judges to factor in age and attendant characteristics before issuing life sentences.
The ruling stemmed from appeals filed by two men who were both 17 when, in unrelated cases, they were convicted of serious crimes and received lengthy prison terms. The decision means both men can seek re-sentencings.
The New Jersey court cited the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case Miller v. Alabama, which ruled that judges must consider a number of factors when presiding over cases where juveniles face life in prison without parole. Those factors include immaturity, family and home environment, family and peer pressures, an “inability to deal with police officers or prosecutors” or their own attorney, and the possibility of rehabilitation.
One of the defendants, Ricky Zuber, was sentenced to 110 years in prison with 55 years of parole ineligibility for his roles in two separate gang rapes, which would make him 72 before he could seek parole. James Comer, the other defendant, was charged with multiple counts of armed robbery, including one where an accomplice shot and killed a victim. The defendant was given a 75-year sentence with no chance for parole for more than 68 years, making him 85 by the time he could seek parole.
Alexander Shalom, a senior staff attorney with the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union who represented one of the defendants, praised the ruling. “This decision is a watershed moment for the rights of juveniles nationally and an important step in ending mass incarceration in New Jersey. These two men who were sentenced as teenagers will now be able to go before a judge and argue for their release before they’ve become old men.”
If you or your child has been arrested for a criminal offense in New Jersey, you must seek expert legal representation right away. The criminal defense attorneys of the Rosenblum Law Firm have many years of experience helping people in a variety of difficult situations. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-979-7551 today for a free consultation about your case.