Governor Larry Hogan has granted parole to three juvenile lifers — the first time a Maryland governor has granted such parole in 24 years. More than 300 people are serving life sentences in Maryland for crimes committed before they were 18 years old.
Under Maryland law, an inmate serving a life term that is eligible for parole may only be paroled with the Governor’s approval. Of the three individuals that were granted parole — two were approved with the Governor’s signature and the third was allowed to move forward without it.
From The Baltimore Sun:
The action by Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, hasn’t been exercised since the administration of William Donald Schaefer, Maryland’s governor from 1987 to 1995. It comes after courts have weighed in on juvenile sentencing and state lawmakers have attempted to remove the governor from the process in recent years.
The article mentions several important court cases that have tackled the issue of minors being sentenced to life without parole. A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case found that sentencing a minor to life without the possibility of parole was cruel and unusual punishment. A 2016 U.S. Supreme Court case found that the 2012 ruling applied retroactively. And in that same year, the ACLU of Maryland sued the Governor on behalf of three juvenile lifers arguing that the State’s parole process violated constitutional protections by denying “meaningful opportunity for release.” That case is still pending.
The article also discusses attempts over the years to pass legislation to remove the Governor from the process. None of those bills have passed into law, but efforts are expected to continue in the 2020 General Assembly session.
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