Recent law bars life without parole for New Jersey juveniles

Bryan Strickland
August 1, 2017

Now 31, Priester is one of more than three dozen state inmates eligible for new sentences and a possible shot at release in the wake of Supreme Court decisions banning mandatory life without parole for minors.

But an Associated Press review has found the gate of freedom slow to open, including in Oregon.

Court records show OR still has five men serving true-life sentences for crimes committed as minors. The most prominent is Thurston High School shooter Kip Kinkel. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is pending.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a measure into law on July 21 that includes a provision banning life without parole for juvenile offenders. But the court also noted "that rigorous consideration of an offender's youth is required in sentencing a juvenile to life without parole". They argued that the three sentences should run together, so he'd be eligible for release after 30 years.

"We are aware of four or five others that are potentially coming up for resentencing soon", Mark Fairbairn, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Corrections, said in a statement.

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The ACLU is asking the state Supreme Court to clarify how offenders like Taylor can get legal help to file for resentencing.

The Juvenile Court backed a bill this past legislative session that would have allowed young offenders to be eligible for parole after 20 years for crimes that resulted in someone's death. If it's not, the trial court must vacate his conviction and instead find him guilty of second-degree murder, which is punishable either by 10 to 30 years or up to life in prison.

Previously, juveniles in the state who were convicted of killing police officers or killing other juveniles during commission of a sex crime could be automatically sentenced to live out their lives behind bars.

There is at least one case in Tennessee courts that challenges the 51-year sentence.

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