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Professor Cara Drinan Quoted About Upcoming Supreme Court Case


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Catholic University law school Professor Cara Drinan, one of the nation’s foremost experts on the treatment of juveniles by the justice system, was quoted on Jan. 6 by the New Orleans Advocate for its story, “30-year-old New Orleans teen killing case heads to U.S. Supreme Court.”
The article highlights the case of George Toca, convicted in Louisiana in 1985 of second-degree murder following a botched car-jacking attempted with a friend. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Toca was 17 at the time, and many people have maintained for three decades that he did not actually commit the killing, but was the victim of mistaken identity.
Since then, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that courts must weigh the immaturity of youth as a factor before meting out life-without-parole sentences to legal minors. Whether its decision would be applied retroactively was an open question; some states have interpreted it that way, but four have not.
In December, the high court agreed to consider whether Toca, 47, has a right to a new hearing over his eligibility for parole. At issue is whether the court meant for its 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, setting rules for such no-parole sentences for juveniles, to be retroactive. The court is not reconsidering Toca’s claim of innocence.
Nonetheless, Toca’s insistence that he was convicted for a crime he did not commit may have some bearing on the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling, Drinan told the Advocate.
“I can’t think it’s a coincidence that this is a claim of actual innocence,” Drinan said. “Facts matter. If the court is going to find Miller is retroactively applicable, it certainly behooves the court for it to be a more sympathetic defendant.”