St. Charles Herald-Guide

D.A. will review life sentences after Supreme Court ruling

Kyle Barnett - July 20, 2012

District Attorney Joel Chaisson has begun research into past cases after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that giving mandatory life sentences to juveniles was unconstitutional.

Louisiana, with the largest prisoner population per capita in the country, is thought to have around 10 percent of the nation’s cases of those who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles. In addition, Louisiana had the youngest threshold for mandatory life sentences, allowing those as young as 15 to receive them.

Chaisson said his office is compiling a list of prisoner names whose sentences may be reviewed in the parish.

"As soon as we get that list I will review those cases solely looking at what the Supreme Court says," Chaisson said. "And what is the appropriate handling of those cases so we can determine how to proceed."

Chaisson said his office will conduct research into cases that may be revisited, but it will be up to the prisoners to initiate a review of their sentence.

"We’re looking at it from our end to determine, as I said, what cases it belongs to and what impact the ruling would have on any sentences that it would affect," Chaisson said. "I would assume that any defendant presently incarcerated will be taking their own steps to have their sentences reviewed."

On whether he agreed or disagreed with the ruling, Chaisson said that any belief he may personally have is irrelevant when it comes to constitutional law.

"We have to follow the law of the land that is set forth by the Supreme Court and we intend to do that," Chaisson said. "Politics has nothing to do with it. It is the law of the land and I intend to comply with the law."