This citizen commission was created in 2016 by Robin M. Wolpert, the 2016 president of the Minnesota State Bar Association. The commission's goal was to conduct a comprehensive study of juvenile homicide offender sentencing and rehabilitation, in part in response to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Miller v. Alabama, which invalidated mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of release for juvenile homicide offenders. Based on this decision, and the 2016 decision Montgomery v. Louisiana, the commission stated that key portions of Minnesota’s Heinous Crimes Act (Minn. Stat. section 609.106) are unconstitutional as applied to juveniles.
Several Minnesota state legislators served on the commission. The commission met seven times between January and December 2017, conducting a comprehensive study of juvenile homicide offender sentencing and rehabilitation. It studied the history and development of juvenile Eighth Amendment jurisprudence, the response of the 50 states to Miller, the status of Minnesota’s offenders who were sentenced to life without the possibility of release as juveniles, the processes and procedures associated with trying juveniles as adults in Minnesota, the juvenile supervision system and criteria used to evaluate adult certification, the implications of neuroscience and adolescent brain development for juvenile sentencing and rehabilitation, and neuropsychological criteria for evaluating adult certification and rehabilitation. Their final report was issued in December 2017.
In 2017, the Minnesota State Bar Association adopted a legislative position accepting the final report of the Commission on Juvenile Sentencing for Heinous Crimes and recommending that the Minnesota Legislature take action consistent with the report.