State v. Keefe

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Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief in support of Steven Keefe, who was sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed when he was under the age of 18.

Our brief argued that a life without parole sentence, whether mandatory or discretionary,  is unconstitutional if imposed without consideration of youth and its attendant characteristics. We further argued that the sentencer at resentencing must consider evidence of rehabilitation arising post-conviction and cannot impose a sentence of life without parole absent a finding of "irreparable corruption" as required by Miller and Montgomery.

The Montana Supreme Court held that Mr. Keefe is entitled to a new resentencing hearing, as the District Court had failed to consider the Miller factors, including post-conviction evidence of rehabilitation. However, the Court held that the District Court did not err by denying Mr. Keefe’s request to be appointed his own experts or his request that the issue of his “irreparable corruption” be presented to a jury. In a concurring and dissenting opinion, Chief Justice McGrath stated that the Court should “go further and conclude that all life without parole sentences are per se unconstitutional for juvenile offenders,” emphasizing the need for stronger protections for youth, as well as the “futility” of determining if a youth is “irreparably corrupt.”