The U.S. Supreme Court won't hear an appeal over whether juveniles imprisoned for life before a 2012 law change can seek new sentences.

Some 460 inmates in Pennsylvania are serving mandatory life sentences for murders committed when they were minors.

A 2012 Supreme Court decision found automatic life sentences for juveniles to be unconstitutional and said judges must have discretion over whether or not to sentence juveniles to life terms. In Pennsylvania, those found guilty of first- and second-degree murder receive automatic life sentences without the possibility of parole.

But the high court did not say if the law should be applied retroactively to as many as 2,000 juvenile lifers in prison across the country. States have since split on the question.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the idea in a 4-3 vote. In his concurring opinion, Chief Justice Ronald Castille criticized the high court for not dealing with the glaring retroactivity issue.

Won't hear case: On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center. Nonetheless, similar cases are still moving through the courts, including one filed in federal court in Philadelphia.

"We still feel like this is an issue that will need to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court at some point," Juvenile Law Center staff attorney Emily C. Keller said. "There are many cases in the pipeline, and many states considering this issue.


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The hundreds of murderers include 11 from York County.

But because the state Supreme Court ruled that only those whose cases are still in direct appeals have the right to sentence reconsideration, just one of those 11 is eligible for a new sentence.

Jordan Wallick was 15 years old when he fatally shot law student James Wallmuth III in the back during a botched robbery in York City on July 28, 2010.

His resentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled, according to court records.

Witman case: The state court's ruling excludes Zachary Witman from receiving a new sentencing hearing, his appeals attorney, Philadelphia-based attorney Norris Gelman, has confirmed.

Witman, now 31, was found guilty of fatally stabbing his 13-year-old brother, Greg Witman, numerous times in their New Freedom home in 1998.

Gelman has said he believes the law means resentencing hearings must be retroactive for all juvenile murderers, no matter how old their cases are.

"In 1976, the Supreme Court of the United States declared the death penalty unconstitutional, and everyone had their death sentences vacated and were given life sentences," Gelman said. "There was no discussion about retroactivity. ... The Supreme Court meant what (it) said.

"It's unconstitutional now, and it was unconstitutional when it was imposed," Gelman said of automatic life sentences for juveniles.

-- Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.


YORK COUNTY'S JUVENILE KILLERS:

Eleven men are serving life in prison for committing murders in York County as juveniles. They are:

* Scott Davis, who fatally shot neighbor Roderick Kotchin, 41, in Springettsbury Township in 1980 as he entered the man's home

* Scott Griffin, who fatally shot girlfriend Linda D. Hagens, 17, in the chest with a deer rifle during an argument in his York City home in 1974

* Warner Batty and co-defendant Donald Rivera, who dragged 26-year-old Betty Ilgenfritz Bradford into a deserted York City building, stripped her and beat her to death, then set her body on fire in 1975

* Larry Markle, who fatally shot 72-year-old Arthur Klinedinst while robbing Eddie's Food Market at 566 W. Philadelphia St. in 1975. Klinedinst was a customer

* Wilfredo Caballero, one of several teenagers who used a tree branch to fatally beat 49-year-old Jose Cosme after luring him to a secluded area in Springettsbury Township in 1988, in part to steal his drugs

* Dwayne Morningwake, who was one of four Children's Home of York runaways who broke into the home in 1988, fatally stabbed counselor Kwame Beatty and stole his cash and car

* Michael Lehman, who was one of four Children's Home of York runaways who broke into the home in 1988, fatally stabbed counselor Kwame Beatty and stole his cash and car

* Kwilson Coleman, who fatally shot 20-year-old Greg Wright in York City in 2008 as the injured Wright ran, and eventually crawled, away from Coleman

* Daron Nesbit, who fatally shot 21-year-old Paul Smith in York City in 1997 during an argument outside a restaurant

* Zachary Witman, who fatally stabbed his 13-year-old brother, Greg Witman, in their New Freedom home in 1998

* Jordan Wallick, who fatally shot law student James Wallmuth III during a botched robbery in York City in 2010.

-- Compiled by staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo.