In 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States published its opinion in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 567 U.S. 460, 183 L. Ed. 2d 407 (2012). It is a landmark case dealing with juvenile offenders in the criminal justice system.
Miller: Rare Juvenile Offender Whose Crime Reflects Irreparable Corruption
Under Miller, SCOTUS held a juvenile convicted of a homicide offense cannot be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP) without judicial consideration of his or her “special circumstances in light of the principles and purposes of juvenile sentencing.” Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718, 725, 577 U.S. 460, 193 L. Ed. 2d 599 (2016).
To do so is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” From the Miller opinion:
But given all we have said … about children’s diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change, we think appropriate occasions for sentencing juveniles to this harshest possible penalty will be uncommon. That is especially so because of the great difficulty we noted in Roper and Graham of distinguishing at this early age between “the juvenile offender whose crime reflects unfortunate yet transient immaturity, and the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption.” Roper, 543 U.S., at 573, 125 S.Ct. 1183; Graham, 560 U.S., at ___, 130 S.Ct., at 2026-2027.
“Although we do not foreclose a sentencer’s ability to make that judgment in homicide cases, we require it to take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.”
The cornerstone of the Miller decision is clear: no matter how horrific the crimes they have committed, children can change. In the aftermath of this SCOTUS opinion, it is considered to be a “Miller violation” of constitutional implications if the juvenile offender is sentenced to life without the possibility of parole absent evaluation of the particular circumstances and the likelihood of “irreparable corruption.”
Lenamon Argues Miller Applies to Vampire Clan Leader Rod Ferrell
Terence Lenamon currently argues the application of the Miller case to Florida inmate Rod Ferrell, who was convicted of a 1996 homicide known to the public through the media coverage of the “Vampire Cult Killings.” The case has also been the subject of both movies, TV shows, and several books.
Rod Ferrell is now 39 years old and serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. He was convicted and sentenced as a juvenile to the death penalty back in 1998. In 2005, SCOTUS held it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to execute offenders under the age of 18 years, resulting in the change of his sentence. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183, 161 L.Ed.2d 1 (2005).
Now, Terry is appealing Mr. Ferrell’s life sentence in a Lake County courtroom, arguing that Rod Ferrell is not one of the “rarest” children who are irreparably corrupt and accordingly, his sentencing should be revisited.
From Terry’s briefing: “Mr. Ferrell has clearly demonstrated he is far from irreparably corrupt,” including demonstrating the ability to change by continuing his education and earning a wastewater-management license while behind bars.