COLUMBIA (AP) — Some South Carolina felons serving life sentences are getting a chance at less time in prison, according to a ruling by the state’s highest court.
On Wednesday, the state Supreme Court ruled that at least 15 felons serving life sentences for homicides they committed while they were minors are eligible to return to court to be resentenced.
The ruling does not mean any of the 15 inmates will necessarily get out of prison any time soon or that a sentencing reduction will occur. Some had extensive criminal records or had committed other violent offenses.
Justices heard the case in January. Local media outlets report that the 3-2 decision cited a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that banned mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole in instances where juveniles commit murder. That case established a five-part framework for courts to consider in framing sentences regarding juveniles and homicide, with parameters including immaturity, home environment and the possibility for rehabilitation.
The federal ruling applied to mandatory sentences, and the U.S. Supreme Court justices avoided declaring whether the new standard should be applied retroactively to older cases.
South Carolina’s high court, however, not only called for a rehearing of older cases but applied the new parameters to all cases where life sentences were imposed on juveniles, even when that decision was at a judge’s discretion.