Judge won't dismiss lawsuit challenging parole ban

By Ed White

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Civil libertarians opposed to Michigan's ban on parole for young convicted killers won a victory last Friday when a federal judge allowed a lawsuit challenging the ban to proceed.

U.S. District Judge John Corbett O'Meara said eight of nine inmates who sued waited too long to go to court. But he allowed Keith Maxey, 20, of Wayne County, to pursue his case against the state. He was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder in 2008.

The Michigan parole board is barred from considering people for parole if they've been convicted of first-degree murder. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Maxey, calls it cruel and unusual punishment because inmates convicted as teens have no opportunity to show they've changed while in prison.

The judge was not deciding the overall merits of the case last Friday. His 13-page decision was a response to the state's request to have the lawsuit dismissed, mostly on procedural grounds.

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down no-parole sentences for juveniles convicted of crimes less than murder. O'Meara likely will be asked to consider whether that decision should also apply to Michigan's young convicted killers.

"We're very hopeful that the mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children will be struck down as unconstitutional," said Michael Steinberg, legal director at ACLU Michigan.

The state attorney general's office said it would continue to defend the law.

Published: Tue, Jul 19, 2011