Ninth Circuit (Kalamazoo County)

Ninth Judicial (Kalamazoo County) Circuit Court Judge Gary C. Giguere, Jr. granted resentencing relief December 21, 2011, in a 1979 common-law felony-murder case, on the basis of retroactive application of the holding in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. ___ ; 130 S. Ct. 2011; 176 L. Ed. 2d 825 (2010), in a case where the offender was 17 years-old at the time of the offense and was convicted of non-parolable felony-murder as an aider and abettor.  Judge Giguere found that the non-parolable life sentence mandated by the then [pre People v. Aaron, 409 Mich. 672; 200 N.W. 2d 304 (1980)] applicable common-law felony-murder doctrine, violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and violated the ban on cruel or unusual punishment in Article I, §16 of the Michigan Constitution.

The common-law felony-murder doctrine did not require proof of malice separate from that of the underlying felony; that doctrine was abrogated in Aaron.  However, the defendant's subsequent direct appeals, and an earlier motion for relief from judgment, resulted in the conviction and sentence being affirmed.

Judge Giguere determined that the decision in Graham - which held that a non-parolable life sentence imposed on a juvenile in a non-homicide case was cruel and unusual punishment under the Eight Amendment - was an applicable retroactive change in the law.  The Judge found that the defendant had no malicious intent, and also found that relevant mitigating factors could not be considered by the original sentencing court due to the mandatory punishment then in effect.  Judge Giguere also found "persuasive and compelling the U.S. Supreme Court's position that studies, statistics, and general trends support the notion that juveniles have lessened culpability."  Further, "juveniles have a lack of maturity, an underdeveloped sense of responsibility, and an increased vulnerability and susceptibility to peer pressure and influence."
The defendant was represented by ACLU attorneys Daniel S. Korobkin, Michael J. Steinberg, and Kary L. Moss, attorney Deborah A. LaBelle, attorneys Kimberly Thomas and Frank E. Vandervort, and Student Attorney Beth Kerwin.

A copy of the December 21, 2011, opinion in People v. Anthony Shamont Jones, Circuit Court No. 1979-1104-FC, is available on the CDRC’s site at

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor