The Story of a Juvenile Lifer Who Won Release

Bobby Hines is one of at least 99 juvenile lifers in Michigan freed under a Supreme Court ruling banning mandatory life without parole for juvenile offenders already in prison. Other teen offenders still are waiting for a chance at resentencing.

Bobby Hines left a Michigan prison last month after 28 years. Three weeks later, he embraced Valencia Warren-Gibbs, the sister of the man he was convicted of killing. He wanted to talk about the night in 1989 when her older brother, James, was shot after Hines and two others confronted him in a feud over drugs, the Associated Press reports. At 15, Hines was condemned to life in prison without parole. Now at 43, he has found work, enjoyed a meal in a restaurant and learned how to take photos with a cellphone. Hines’ release came after the U.S. Supreme Court last year extended a ban on mandatory life without parole for juvenile offenders to those already in prison, starting a wave of new sentences and the release of dozens of inmates from Michigan to Pennsylvania, Arkansas and beyond.

Other former teen offenders still are waiting for a chance at resentencing in states and counties that have been slow to address the court ruling. In Michigan, prosecutors are seeking new no-parole sentences for nearly two-thirds of 363 juvenile lifers. Those cases are on hold until the Michigan Supreme Court determines whether judges or juries should decide their fate. Hines, one of at least 99 Michigan lifers already resentenced, wasn’t the gunman. Prosecutors branded him the ringleader in the shooting of James Warren, arguing he’d provoked two other teens, saying “Pop him” or “Let him have it,” when the trio confronted him. When Hines left prison on Sept. 12, he faced the same hurdles as other released lifers: He had no money, no job history and no experience as an adult in society. For some, walking out after 30, 40, even 50 years feels a bit like time travel.