ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan man sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile will have a chance at freedom after a judge granted him a resentencing.
The Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph reports that Berrien County Trial Court Judge John M. Donahue vacated Michael Johnson’s life sentence for second-degree murder on Tuesday. Johnson pleaded guilty to killing 16-year-old Sue Ellen Machemer in 1980, when he was 17.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a life sentence without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. Prosecutor Aaron Mead has argued that the 2012 ruling doesn’t have to be retroactively applied to Johnson because he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and his sentence carries the possibility of parole.
Donahue ruled this week to resentence Johnson, citing new evidence regarding juvenile brain development.
Donahue hasn’t scheduled the resentencing hearing.