Carter v. State

Juvenile Law Center, along with Juvenile Sentencing Project, Legal Clinic, Quinnipiac University School of Law and The Sentencing Project, filed a consolidated amicus brief in the Maryland Court of Appeals in support of Daniel Carter, James Bowie, Matthew McCullough, and Phillip Clements. Mr. Carter, Mr. Bowie, Mr. McCullough, and Mr. Clements are currently serving life or the functional equivalent of life sentences for crimes they committed as children. While they may indeed one day become eligible for parole, no individual in Maryland sentenced to life with parole as a juvenile has been approved for release in over twenty years.

Our brief argued that Maryland's parole system is an unconstitutional ad hoc executive clemency system which fails to provide a "meaningful opportunity to obtain release" to youth sentenced to life or life equivalent terms. We further argued that scientific research on recidivism supports providing juvenile offenders with a truly meaningful opportunity to obtain early release.

The court held that “[w]ith respect to the two Petitioners serving life sentences, we hold that their sentences are legal as the law governing parole of inmates serving life sentences in Maryland, including the parole statue, regulations, and recent executive order adopted by the Governor, on their face allow a juvenile offender serving a life sentence a ‘meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.’ We express no opinion as to whether those laws have been, or will be, carried out legally, as that issue is not before us and may be litigated in the future.” The court further held that Mr. McCullough’s cumulative 100-year sentence with parole eligibility after serving approximately 50 years “is effectively a sentence of life without parole violative of the Eighth Amendment” and remanded his case for resentencing.

The court issued a separate opinion in Clements, affirming the lower court’s dismissal of the State’s appeal reasoning that “the mere grant of a motion to correct an illegal sentence, without imposition of a new sentence, is not an appealable final judgment from which the State has the right to appeal.”