211231-HP-tommy richards sentencing-file photo

Tommy Richards, now 51, wipes away tears during a Sept. 10, 2019, hearing before Judge Angela Pasula at the Berrien County Courthouse. Richards was 17 when he raped and killed 10-year-old Shimika Hicks of Benton Harbor in 1987. He was handed the mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

ST. JOSEPH — When the law changed regarding the automatic sentence of life in prison without parole for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder, Michigan courts had to dust off hundreds of cases.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2012 case of Miller vs. Alabama that the life without parole sentence was unconstitutional for juveniles. As a result, in 2016 the court made the ruling retroactive, which left prosecutors with an option to file motions to uphold the sentences.

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