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Louisiana inmate central to juvenile life sentences debate granted parole after 57 years

Henry Montgomery will be released from Louisiana State Penitentiary as Louisiana’s longest-incarcerated inmate convicted to life imprisonment for crimes committed as a juvenile.

Henry Montgomery, whose sentencing was the subject of a 2016 Supreme Court case that decided inmates sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for crimes committed as juveniles could have their sentences overturned, has been granted parole, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Now 75, Montgomery was convicted of the 1963 murder of East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s deputy Charles Hurt after the deputy caught Montgomery skipping school. Montgomery was 17 years old at the time of the murder and served more than 57 years at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, making him Louisiana’s longest-incarcerated "juvenile lifer."

He was originally sentenced to death, but the Louisiana Supreme Court threw out the trial in 1966. Montgomery was sentenced to life without parole in the subsequent retrial.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided in Miller v. Alabama (2012) that mandatory life sentences without parole for offenses committed as a juvenile constituted “cruel and unusual” punishment, but it wasn’t clear if the decision could be applied to past offenses. Montgomery’s 2016 Supreme Court hearing found that the decision could be applied retroactively.

Since Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), about 800 people nationwide have been freed as a result of the ruling.

Montgomery’s parole applications were denied twice, most recently in 2019, despite a state judge calling him a “model prisoner.”

The judge of Montgomery’s 2019 parole hearing denied him his freedom because he hadn’t participated in enough programs while in prison, saying it demonstrated Montgomery’s “lack of maturity.”

Montgomery will re-enter society with the help of the Louisiana Parole Project, which helps parolees obtain housing, medicines, identification and other necessities after long prison sentences, generally 20 years or longer.

Deputy Hurt’s two daughters met with Montgomery in prison and forgave him, but the family opposed his release.

Aubry is a reporter, producer and operations assistant in Baton Rouge.

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