People v. Masalmani

Pre-Miller, Ihab Masalmani received a mandatory life without parole sentence for felony murder committed when he was 17. On resentencing, the court reimposed a life without parole sentence after it improperly placed the burden on the Defendant to show that a life without parole sentence was not appropriate and failed to give proper consideration and weight to Ihab's age, characteristics of youth, and potential for rehabilitation.

Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief in the Michigan Supreme Court in support of Ihab. We argued that People v. Skinner misinterprets the constitutional mandates of Miller and Montgomery which establish a presumption against imposing life without parole sentences on youth and places the burden on the prosecution to establish that an individual is among the rare irreparably corrupt juvenile offenders for whom rehabilitation is impossible. We further argued that the trial court committed reversible error in its consideration of the Miller factors by treating them as aggravators and by failing to provide Ihab with individualized sentencing in violation of his state and federal rights to be free from cruel and/or unusual punishment.

The Michigan Supreme Court vacated its order granting Mr. Masalmani’s application for leave to appeal, stating it was “no longer persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.” In dissent, Chief Justice McCormack, joined by Justices Bernstein and Cavanagh, stated, “the trial court abused its discretion when it treated the mitigating factors as aggravating factors to justify its sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.” “The trial court’s sentencing decision reveals the critical flaw in this Court’s opinion in People v. Skinner, 502 Mich 89 (2018): by reading the Sixth Amendment out of MCL 769.25 we have permitted life-without-parole sentences that violate the Eighth Amendment.”