David Laigaie comments on Philadelphia DA request for time to vet juvenile lifers (The Legal Intelligencer)

David Laigaie, chair of Eckert Seamans’ White Collar Defense and Internal Investigations Group, was quoted in The Legal Intelligencer article “Phila. DA Asks Court for Time to Vet Juvenile Lifers,” about implications of recent request to a federal court from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding that juvenile offenders serving sentences of life without parole were sentenced unconstitutionally, Susan Affronti, chief federal litigator of the Philadelphia DA Office, sent a letter to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania asking judges to hold off on granting the inmates habeas corpus petitions on the grounds that their state court options have not yet been exhausted, or, alternatively, stay the petitions. According to Affronti’s letter, Pennsylvania courts will vacate the prisoners’ sentences and resentence them in a process will affect several hundred inmates in Philadelphia. The state is in the process of identifying those who are eligible.

Laigaie represents Terrance Lewis, who was sent to prison in 1997 for second-degree murder stemming from a drug-related altercation, committed at age 17. Laigaie tells The Legal that Lewis has served enough time and should be repatriated into society, adding, however, that individual resentencing for the nearly 500 defendants serving unconstitutional sentences would be taxing on Philadelphia’s judicial system.

“It would be a big imposition on the court,” Laigaie said.

Laigaie said there was doubt as to Lewis’ guilt as well, including questions as to whether Lewis was even present at the scene of the crime; the prosecution’s witness couldn’t identify him because, according to Laigaie, the witness had been smoking crack 15 minutes before the murder occurred.

Candidates like Lewis, Laigaie said, should be on the fast track for parole or be put into halfway houses in the interim.

The full article is available on The Legal Intelligencer website.  (Access to content on third-party websites may require subscription.)

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