Aiken v. Byars, 765 S.E.2d 572 (S.C. 2014) – Fifteen juvenile defendants were convicted of various homicide offenses and all sentenced to LWOP in a discretionary regime. On collateral review, the South Carolina Supreme Court held Miller applies to discretionary LWOP sentences. The court recognized that Miller “did not expressly extend its ruling to states . . . whose sentencing scheme permits [an LWOP] sentence to be imposed on a juvenile offender but does not mandate it.” (emphasis in original). The court reasoned, however, that “we must give effect to the proportionality rationale integral to Miller’s holding—youth has constitutional significance. As such, it must be afforded adequate weight in sentencing . . . . Miller is clear that it is the failure of a sentencing court to consider the hallmark features of youth prior to sentencing that offends the Constitution . . . Miller does more than ban mandatory life sentencing schemes for juveniles; it establishes an affirmative requirement that courts fully explore the impact of the defendant’s juvenility on the sentence rendered.” Here, the record shows that “some of the hearings touched on issues of youth, [but] none of them approached the sort of hearing envisioned by Miller where the factors of youth are carefully and thoughtfully considered. Many of the attorneys mention age as nothing more than a chronological fact in a vague plea for mercy. Miller holds the Constitution requires more.” The court concluded: “In our view, whether their sentence is mandatory or permissible, any juvenile offender who receives a sentence of [LWOP] is entitled to the same constitutional protections afforded by the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.” The court held that the petitioners and those similarly situated are therefore entitled to resentencing to allow them to present evidence specific to their attributes of youth. The proper procedure at resentencing is to consider the factors set forth in Miller. The court also noted that any individual affected by the court’s holding may file a motion for resentencing within one year from the filing of this opinion.