Michigan judges -- not juries -- can decide on life without parole sentence for juveniles

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) (6/20/2018) - The Michigan Supreme Court says judges, not juries, have the sole power to decide whether someone under 18 gets life in prison without parole.

The 4-2 opinion, released Wednesday, centers on murder cases from St. Clair County and Genesee County. Many new sentencing hearings for so-called juvenile lifers have been on hold while a decision was in the works.

The Genesee County case involves Kenya Hyatt, a 17-year-old convicted of first-degree murder along with other family members. They were accused of shooting a security guard while trying to steal his gun.

The Supreme Court says there are no constitutional violations in allowing a judge to order a no-parole sentence for a teen under 18. Chief Justice Stephen Markman says a trial judge doesn't need to find any particular fact before choosing the highest punishment.

Justices Bridget McCormack and Richard Bernstein disagreed. They also said a no-parole sentence for minors should be reviewed by appellate courts under a strict standard.

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