Nebraska Pardons Board Cancels Hearings for LWOP Prisoners Convicted as Juveniles

The Nebraska Pardons Board cancelled this week’s hearings following the granting of an injunction request by more than a dozen prisoners, who said that the meetings, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama, may result in them receiving prison sentences of at least 50 years.

The Omaha World Herald reports that Douglas County Judge Thomas Otepka granted the request late last Friday, with the Pardons Board subsequently postponing several hearings scheduled for Monday and Wednesday.

“Defendants are enjoined from commencing the commutation hearings scheduled for December 3 and 5, 2012, until such time as the Nebraska Supreme Court and the Nebraska Legislature addresses the constitutional mandates of Miller v. Alabama,” Otepka wrote.

Two weeks earlier, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning - a member of the state’s Pardons Board - said that he would likely give the prisoners, all currently serving life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles, minimum 50-year sentences in hearings originally scheduled for this week.

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision,” Bruning said. “This is an unnecessary delay to Nebraska’s compliance with the Miller v. Alabama decision that risks untold state financial resources.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles without the possibility of parole were unconstitutional, although the Miller v. Alabama ruling still does not forbid judges from sentencing to life sentences young offenders found guilty of murder.

Prior to the Pardons Board’s decision to cancel the week’s hearings, several state prosecutors asked them to wait until the Nebraska Legislature and other courts formalized a plan to deal with the state’s juvenile offenders.

Tuesday morning, Bruning announced plans to petition the Nebraska Supreme Court to withdraw Otepka’s injunction so that the commutation hearings could be rescheduled.

Photo by ensign_beedrill via Flickr.