Panel will decide if juries can sentence teens to life

DETROIT (AP) -- The Michigan appeals court has assigned a special group of judges to settle conflicting opinions on a major issue: Should juries have the power to sentence teens convicted of first-degree murder?

A three-judge panel at the court broke new ground last year when it said juries -- not trial judges -- must decide whether someone under 18 gets a no-parole sentence. The case involved Tia Skinner, who was convicted of plotting a fatal attack on her father in St. Clair County.

That decision set a key precedent. A different set of judges on the appeals court firmly disagreed in January but had to apply it in a Flint murder case.

In a rare step, a seven-judge panel at the court will settle the dispute. Arguments haven't been scheduled yet.

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