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BC-US--Locked Up for Life,ADVISORY, US

December 30, 2017

It’s been almost two years now since the U.S. Supreme Court decided that most inmates who killed as teens should not be locked away for the rest of their lives. While dozens of former juvenile offenders sentenced to life without parole have been resentenced and released across the U.S., others are still awaiting their fate in states that continue to test the limits of the court ruling.

The Associated Press has been following the juvenile life-without-parole debate throughout 2017, exclusively examining how all 50 states have responded to the 2016 ruling that extended a ban on mandatory life without parole for juvenile offenders to those already in prison and intimately exploring how some of those who have been given another chance are starting over.

In a follow-up package, AP reporters Adam Geller and Sharon Cohen zoom in on one of the key questions at the heart of the conversation: Who is, or is not, irredeemable? The first piece spotlights Louisiana, where prosecutors want to resentence dozens to new life-without-parole terms, despite the Supreme Court’s mandate that these sentences be saved for the “rarest” offenders whose crimes reflect “irreparable corruption.” A second story delves into the question of when is someone beyond redemption. And in a third piece, we hear from the daughter of a murder victim, who describes in her own words why she will fight to keep her mother’s then-teenage killer behind bars for life.

The stories, accompanied by photos, have moved in advance as HFRs for publication at 12:01 a.m. EST Sunday, Dec. 31, and thereafter.


UNDATED — Nearly two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prison inmates who killed as teenagers are capable of change and may deserve eventual freedom, the question remains unresolved: Which ones should get a second chance? Now the ruling — which came in the case of a 71-year-old Louisiana inmate still awaiting a parole hearing — is being tested again in that same state, where prosecutors have moved in recent months to keep about 1 in 3 former juvenile offenders locked up for the rest of their lives. Those on either side of the issue agree on one thing: The nation’s highest court likely needs to step back into the debate over how the U.S. punishes juvenile offenders. By Adam Geller. 1,760 words with an abridged version. AP Photos.



UNDATED — When is an inmate beyond redemption? A Michigan inmate serving life without parole for the murder of his father says he is a changed man and worthy of a second chance. But he’s among more than 200 juvenile lifers Michigan prosecutors are fighting to keep locked up. By Sharon Cohen. 1,000 words. AP Photos.


The daughter of a murder victim describes in her own words the pain she has lived with since her mother was killed more than 20 years ago. As she faces the resentencing of a man who was 17 when he was ordered to serve life without parole for her mother’s death in California, she says she knows juveniles make stupid mistakes and deserve a second chance. But not in this case. “When is the crime too horrendous to count as a mistake?” she asks. 1,000 words in chunky text format. AP Photos.

The following stories moved earlier this year. Find the entire Locked Up for Life series here .


DETROIT — The U.S. Supreme Court has been clear and consistent: In successive decisions over more than a decade, the justices said the harshest punishments levied against adult criminal offenders are unconstitutionally cruel and unusual when imposed on juveniles. After banning mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders, the court last year applied that ruling to more than 2,000 inmates already serving such sentences, saying that all but the rare irredeemable juvenile offender should have a chance at freedom one day. But prison gates don’t just swing open. A 50-state Associated Press examination found that while in some states dozens of inmates have been resentenced and released, officials in other states have delayed review of cases, skirted the ruling on seeming technicalities or fought to keep the vast majority of their affected inmates locked up for life. By AP National Writers Sharon Cohen and Adam Geller. 3,000 words with an abridged version. With AP Photos, AP Video. Story moved in advance on July 28.


— Locked Up-50-State Summary: A rundown of the issue, state by state. Moved in advance.

— Locked Up-Q&A: Questions and answers about juvenile sentencing laws and why teens who were sentenced to life without parole are now getting a second chance. Moved in advance.

— Locked Up-SCOTUS Cases: A rundown of U.S. Supreme Court rulings dealing with juvenile offenders since 2005. Moved in advance.

— Locked Up-Profiles: Thumbnail sketches of the many voices in the debate over juvenile sentencing, including a judge who first sentenced — and then advocated for the release of — a now-41-year-old inmate. She was 17 when she participated in a crime that left a man dead. Moved in advance.

— State separates: Short stories will move to every AP state wire explaining what, if any, effect the ruling has had on the ground.


WILMINGTON, Delaware — It’s just six blocks to the places Earl Rice Jr. remembers. But after more than four decades in prison, he has ground to cover. Skirting Franklin Street’s neatly trimmed lawns in long strides, he reaches the park where he and his brothers used to go sledding. Rice slows, taking it all in. “For 43 years I’m behind a wall or some kind of a fence with guard towers ... and then you come out here. I’m on a different planet!” Rice, jailed at 17 for a purse-snatching that took a woman’s life, is 61 now. He’s one of dozens of juvenile lifers who have been released from prison since Supreme Court decisions gave them a shot at a second chance. But can he, and others, make it in a world that long ago tossed aside most of what they knew as teenagers? By Adam Geller and Sharon Cohen. 2,300 words. Story moved in advance on July 27.



BALTIMORE — A Supreme Court decision triggering new sentences for inmates serving mandatory life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles has had a far greater effect: The ruling is prompting lawyers to apply its fundamental logic — that it’s cruel and unusual to lock teens up for life — to a larger population, those whose sentences technically include a parole provision but who stand little chance of getting out. Other courts are applying the 2016 ruling to those whose life-without-parole sentences weren’t mandatory or were negotiated as part of a plea deal. Among the cases caught up in the confusion: That of D.C. sniper Lee Malvo, whose life sentence in Virginia was recently tossed. By Juliet Linderman. 1,500 words. Story moved in advance on July 28.


DETROIT —“We made it,” he declared, almost inaudibly, as if he’d just crossed an imaginary finish line. Bobby Hines walked out of prison at 9 a.m. promptly, arm-in-arm with his sister. Sentenced to life without parole for his role in a murder at age 15, Hines is free at 43. With help, he’s learning to make the transition into the world he left behind as a kid. However unlikely, Hines has also forged a relationship with his victim’s sister. The two have met and pledged to be friends. “I only want the best for you,” she says. “If you need a brother, just call me,” he says. By Sharon Cohen. 2,440 words. Story moved in advance on Oct. 26.



UNDATED — The Supreme Court’s ruling that more than 2,000 juvenile lifers must get the chance to show they deserve release raises questions about how they’ll handle the outside world. Some prisons and advocates are trying to work with them. But critics say not enough is being done, and much is up to the lifers, themselves and their families. By Adam Geller. 1,400 words. This is a chunky text look at what some prisons, nonprofit groups and former inmates are doing to aid juvenile lifers as they re-enter society. Story moved in advance on Oct. 26.

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