A new clinic at Cornell Law School is focusing on juveniles sentenced to life without parole in South Carolina. The Juvenile Justice Clinic was inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court's September decision in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455, in which the high court ruled that the Eighth Amendment prohibited mandatory sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders convicted of homicide. Seeing a lack of advocacy and resources in a post- Miller world for South Carolina juveniles, Cornell Law professor John Blume created the clinic along with professors Sheri Johnson and Keir Weyble. Blume has ties to the state.
"Our goal is to get new sentencing hearings for all juveniles sentenced to life without parole," said Blume, who is also director of Cornell Law's Death Penalty Project and Clinical, Advocacy and Skills Programs. "There should be some procedure during their incarceration to determine whether they deserve a second chance."
Last semester, the clinic filed a class action on behalf of 37 juveniles seeking resentencing that is now being considered by the state Supreme Court. In addition to three faculty members and one fellow, eight students are working on juvenile cases, five of which were selected for individual representation. For the past few months, students have been conducting research and interviews with the juvenile defendants, their families, friends and teachers to learn more about their cases and lives at the time they were convicted. The clinic is also putting together training materials for lawyers representing juvenile clients facing life sentences without parole.