The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Miller v. Alabama and Montgomery v. Louisiana held that mandatory Life-Without-Parole (LWOP) sentences were unlawful for child homicide offenders and required trial courts to provide child homicide offenders a constitutionally mandated individualized resentencing hearing and the opportunity for parole release.
According to “Trial Defense Guidelines: Representing a Child Client Facing a Possible Life Sentence” issued by the Carnpaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY), attorneys must conduct extensive investigation to prepare for a resentencing hearing, as one would prepare for trial. Attorneys must regularly visit their Child Lifer client to interview him or her, and must have their Child Lifer client repeatedly examined by Psychologists, Mitigation Specialists, Corrections Experts, and Legal Aides in preparation for resentencing hearings.
Phildelphia-based Amistad Law Project’s Attorneys have submitted petitions on behalf of their Child Lifer clients at SCI-Rockview to the PDOC’s Juvenile Lifer Project (JLP) Manager Robert Hammond and Superintendent Mark Garman, for their clients’ transfer to State Correctional lnstitutions (SCI) closest to Philadelphia, to facilitate preparation for resentencing hearings.
However, JLP Manager Hammond and Supt. Garman have denied the Amistad Law Project attorneys’ transfer petition for their Child Lifer clients, despite the attorneys having stated they cannot effectively prepare for their clients resentencing hearings due to their clients being held at SCIs hundreds of miles from Philadelphia, in the Central and Western regions of Pennsylvania.
The PDOC has taken the official position of denying Philadelphia attorneys’ petitions to transfer Child Lifers from Philadelphia to nearby SCI-Graterford, SCI-Phoenix or SCI-Chester to facilitate their preparation of legal defenses for individualized resentencing hearings, arrogantly stating that Amistad Law Project attorneys (i.e. Philadelphia attorneys) can conduct their interviews and investigations with their Child Lifer clients via mail correspondence, phone calls, and visits.
One would think that the PDOC would be actively assisting Philadelphia’s Courts, D.A. Office, and Defense Attorneys representing Child Lifers in facilitating the process of individualized resentencing hearings by transferring the 382 Child Lifers from Philly to State prisons closest to Philadelphia County so that Defense Attorneys can easily prepare their legal defense for their Child Lifer clients for resentencing hearings and that the D.A. Office may expedite the negotiations of resentencing deal agreements.
Instead, the PDOC is actively hindering Philadelphia-based Defense Attorneys from providing adequate legal representation to their Child Lifer clients by denying transfer of Philly’s Child Lifers to SCI-Graterford, SCI-Phoenix, or SCI-Chester near Philadelphia County, to prepare an adequate legal defense for resentencing hearings that cannot be effectively done via mail correspondence, phone calls, and visits to SCIs hundreds of miles from Philadelphia. The PDOC’s official position on the transfer of Philly’s Child Lifer prisoners to State prisons closest to Philadelphia, for purposes of preparation for individualized resentencing hearings that can potentially re-impose Life imprisonment terms, actually prevents Child Lifer prisoners from receiving adequate legal representation and undermines a constitutionally fair resentencing hearing in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Philadelphia-based Attorneys and their Child Lifer clients should petition PDOC Secretary John Wetzel for a transfer to a SCI closest to Philly that they may prepare an adequate legal defense for resentencing hearings. If their transfer petition is denied by the PDOC, they should then petition the trial court for a court order to be transferred to a State prison close to Philadelphia.
Don’t allow the PDOC to continue sabotaging Child Lifer prisoners’ legal defenses for resentencing hearings. Demand that the PDOC stop hindering Child Lifers’ receiving adequate legal representation and undermining resentencing hearings by refusing to transfer Philly’s Child Lifers to State prison closest to Philadelphia to prepare their legal defense.
The struggle for our Freedom is not over.