People v. Matias
In 1994, Jose Matias, a Latino youth, was tried as an adult and sentenced to a de facto life sentence of 50 years to life for a crime committed when he was sixteen.
Juvenile Law Center and Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law filed an amicus brief in a Supreme Court of New York Appellate Division in support of Mr. Matias. Our brief provided the Court with context on the history of youth sentencing and argued that, in the 1980s and 1990s, racist characterizations of youth in the media and unsupported scholarly predictions about youth, race, and crime led to a moral panic about violent youth criminals. The legislative changes brought about by these false narratives had lasting effects for youth, particularly Black and Brown youth. We argued that Mr. Matias’s sentencing was affected by these narratives, and urged the Court to grant him a Miller resentencing hearing that would consider the mitigating factors of youth that were overlooked at his original sentencing.
The Supreme Court of New York Appellate Division found that Mr. Matias’s sentence was constitutional, as he was sentenced under a discretionary statutory scheme and the sentencing court was not precluded from considering his age and the attendant circumstances.
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