Teen Killer Finally Gets Chance for Parole–in 2047–for Harris County Deputy’s Shooting

Keri Blakinger, Houston Chronicle •

Then in 2012, a groundbreaking Supreme Court case out of Alabama banned mandatory life without parole for minors. Instead, the high court said sentencing for young offenders should be considered on a case-by-case basis, weighing factors such as culpability and the possibility of rehabilitation.

“The U.S. Supreme Court was clear that the sentence should only be for the rare juvenile that represents permanent incorrigibility and the inability to be rehabilitated,” said Marsha Levick, chief legal officer at the Juvenile Law Center in Pennsylvania.

Teens sentenced in the six years between the creation of life without parole and the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision were in a sort of legal limbo, sentenced under a statute deemed no longer constitutional.

In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed a law banning life without parole as a sentence for killers under 18. That law wasn’t retroactive, so it didn’t affect cases like Nickerson’s.

But three years later, another Supreme Court case made the 2012 ruling retroactive, and Nickerson’s case ended up back in the legal system.

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.