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Dec 12, 2014 3:52 PM

Justices to review sentences for young convicts

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) The Supreme Court will decide whether its 2-year-old ruling throwing out mandatory life in prison without parole for juveniles should apply to older cases.

The justices said Friday they will examine the case of a Louisiana man who has been imprisoned since 1985 for the accidental shooting of his best friend during a botched armed robbery.

George Toca was 17 at the time of the shooting and was given an automatic life term with no possibility of parole. Toca argues someone else accidentally shot the friend, but that issue is not before the court.

In 2012, the justices ruled that judges and juries must take account of age when sentencing people who were younger than 18 at the time of even the most brutal crimes.

Courts around the country have differed on whether prison inmates whose cases are closed can take advantage of the high court ruling and seek parole or new sentencing hearings. The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled against Toca.

In a separate case, New Hampshire officials are appealing to the Supreme Court over a state court ruling that granted four men who were convicted of murder as teenagers new sentencing hearings.

The Supreme Court has handed down a series of rulings that hold juveniles less responsible than adults when their sentences are considered. The latest case involves how the court's views about juvenile sentences mesh with another line of cases that deal with when major court decisions should apply retroactively to older cases.

Toca has lost several rounds of appeals about his responsibility for the crime that landed him at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, including that witnesses mistakenly identified him as the shooter.

The case will be argued in the early spring.

The case is Toca v. Louisiana, 14-6381.


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