People v. Wilson

New Decision

Michael Wilson was 14 years old when he participated in an armed robbery that resulted in a death. Despite a jury’s finding that he did not personally discharge the weapon, Mr. Wilson was found accountable for his co-defendant’s actions and was sentenced to a de facto life sentence of 59 years.

Juvenile Law Center and Children and Family Justice Center filed an amicus brief in the Illinois Supreme Court in support of Mr. Wilson, arguing that sentencing youth to life in prison under an accountability theory both defies adolescent brain development research and contravenes the Eighth Amendment. We further argued that imposing such a sentence violates the mandates of Miller v. Alabama, and that the sentencing court failed to properly consider youth and its attendant characteristics. 

Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Jones v. Mississippi, the Illinois Supreme Court held that “a discretionary sentencing scheme, in itself, satisfies Miller’s requirement that sentencing courts account for youth and its attendant circumstances,” and thus Mr. Wilson received the constitutionally required procedure. In a loss for Illinois youth, the Court overruled their prior decision in People v. Holman, which required sentencing courts to make a finding of permanent incorrigibility before imposing a life sentence on a youth.



Monica Disare, Marsha Levick, Riya Saha Shah


Tiffany Faith, Marissa Lariviere