Pennsylvania’s About-Face

Camila Velloso, CNS, PBS NewsHour •

That year the Juvenile Law Center and the Defender Association of Philadelphia, in Commonwealth v. Cunningham, argued the unconstitutionality of juvenile life-without-parole sentences in Pennsylvania. They said that Miller should apply retroactively to the state’s juvenile lifers.

In October 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court disagreed. It decided that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller did not apply retroactively. As a result, Pennsylvania’s juvenile lifers were not entitled to new sentences, and they continued to serve life terms without parole.

"It was a challenging time because we had individuals in Pennsylvania — hundreds of them — who were sitting on their hands. They couldn't move their cases forward," said Marsha Levick, co-founder and chief legal officer of the Juvenile Law Center.

About the Expert

Marsha Levick co-founded Juvenile Law Center in 1975. Throughout her legal career, Levick has been an advocate for children’s and women's rights and is a nationally recognized expert in juvenile law.