SECOND LOOK 2021
Time remaining until the 87th Texas Legislative Session Begins
Miller v. Alabama
In 2012, a case called Miller v. Alabama made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In this case, the majority of justices ruled that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a juvenile convicted of homicide violated the eighth amendment. The eighth amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment and reasons that a punishment should be proportionate to the offense and relative to the person who committed the crime.
Miller v. Alabama was fueled by two separate cases involving fourteen-year-old boys who received mandatory life sentences without parole. Their names were Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson. Miller committed a homicide while Jackson was with another teenager who committed a homicide. In some states, including Texas, if a person is in the commission of a felony with one or more people and someone in that group kills another, everyone in the group can be charged with homicide...even if the others in the group had no intention or plan to kill.
The Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of Miller v. Alabama used two cases to make their decision. The first was Roper v. Simmons which prohibits the death penalty of juveniles (2005). The second was Graham v. Florida which prohibits life-without-parole sentences for juveniles who are convicted of non-homicides (2010).
In the latter case, the Supreme Court reasoned that “…it could not be conclusively determined at the time of sentencing that the juvenile defendant would be a danger to society for the rest of his life, and a sentence of life without parole improperly denied the juvenile offender a chance to demonstrate growth, maturity, and rehabilitation.” Additionally, this case established that children are different from adults, they lacked maturity and make impulsive decisions. Also, juveniles have a better chance of rehabilitation. An automatic mandatory sentence of life without parole takes away a court’s ability to examine a child’s life, influences, mental health, and home environment when imposing a sentence.
Justice Breyer addressed those involved in Law of Parties cases by stating, “..when compared to an adult murderer, a juvenile offender who did not kill or intend to kill has a twice diminished moral culpability.”
The U.S. Supreme Court held that the eighth amendment prohibits a sentencing structure that mandates a life-without-parole sentence for juveniles who have been convicted of murder. This ruling does not prevent a life-without-parole sentence, it only prevents it from being mandatory. Instead, courts must consider the individual involved and their life influences so that the sentence is proportionate to the crime and the individual.
What does this mean for Second Lookers who have already been sentenced? On January 25, 2016, the US Supreme Court ruled in a case called Montgomery v. Louisiana that Miller v. Alabama must be applied retroactively for all juveniles given a mandatory life sentence without parole.
How are Second Lookers affected by Miller v. Alabama? This case is critical to the future of convicted juveniles in Texas with life or life-without-parole sentences. It provides the Texas state courts a legal avenue in which to take a more careful and meaningful second look at juvenile sentences which may result in an earlier parole review date.
Overview of 2017 and 2019
Although the Second Look bill made great strides in both the 2017 and 2019 Texas legislative sessions, it did not make it to the floor due to various political blocks. It will be introduced again in the 2021 legislative session.
Epicenter has community groups based in Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth that meet quarterly to plan strategy and encourage one another. Please contact the representative in the city nearest to you to get involved:
- Austin, International, Out of State: email@example.com
- Corpus Christi: Norma Zepeda firstname.lastname@example.org and Letty Hernandez Lhernandez2948@yahoo.com
- Dallas-Fort Worth: Emma DeCaro email@example.com
- Houston: Kristen Luprete firstname.lastname@example.org
- San Antonio: Victoria Garzes email@example.com
Additional ways to get involved:
- Pray and fast on Mondays: For the Second Look bill to pass in 2021
- Facebook: Click “Like”, “Following”, and then “See First” on our public Facebook page. This will ensure you see all of our posts.
- Advocacy: Request to join our closed Facebook group. In this forum we organize advocacy efforts, plan meetings, send periodic mailers to all Second Lookers, and encourage one another.
- Contact Info: Complete this form to stay in the know about Second Look advocacy efforts and updates.
- Give: Epicenter’s board and staff consists entirely of volunteers. However, donations are needed to help cover postage, travel, curriculum, printing, and media. You can give here or via check to P.O. Box 4383 Lago Vista, TX 78545
Second Looker Success Stories
Do you have a Second Looker success story you would like to feature here? Do you have pictures of your Second Looker at a graduation or certificate ceremony? Please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
John Henry Rodriguez
Henry Wesley Molina