Wershe v. Combs, No. 13-1209 (6th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Wershe was 17 years and 10 months old when he was arrested in Detroit and charged with various drug crimes. He was convicted of possession with the intent to deliver more than 650 grams of cocaine, and, in 1988, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. At sentencing, Wershe was 18 years and 7 months old. In 1992, the Michigan Supreme Court declared the life-without-parole penalty for simple possession unconstitutional. Wershe’s first opportunity for parole was denied in 2003. In 2012, the Parole Board determined that it had no interest in taking action on his case and scheduled Wershe’s next interview for 2017. Wershe brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Michigan Parole Board members, alleging that the parole consideration process did not afford him a meaningful opportunity for release in violation of his rights to due process and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The district court sua sponte dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of Wershe’s due-process claim, but vacated with respect to the Eight Amendment because the district court failed to consider the impact of Wershe’s youth at the time of the crime and his arrest.