Illinois Supreme Court Joins Majority of States in Ruling Miller v. Alabama Is Retroactive


The Illinois Supreme Court today unanimously held that Miller v. Alabama applies retroactively to sentences imposed before the United States Supreme Court announced that decision in 2012. Most state supreme courts have found Miller‘s ban on automatic life-without-parole sentences for children is retroactive.

The state supreme court followed the reasoning of its lower appellate courts, which had already found the Miller decision to be retroactive. “Miller places a particular class of persons covered by the statute — juveniles — constitutionally beyond the State’s power to punish with a particular category of punishment — mandatory sentences of natural life without parole,” the court recognized. It concluded that “[s]ince Miller declares a new substantive rule, it applies retroactively.”

Illinois joins Florida, Mississippi, Iowa, Massachusetts, Texas, Nebraska, and federal courts across the country in recognizing that Miller is fully retroactive.

The decision came in the case of Addolfo Davis, who was just 14 years old when he was arrested and charged with first degree murder. He was convicted and, even though the State didn’t prove that Addolfo, rather than his two older co-defendants, fired the shots that killed the victims, he was automatically sentenced to die in prison. The court vacated Addolfo’s sentence and remanded his case for a new sentencing hearing.