The US Supreme Court Building is seen in this March 31, 2012 photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Story highlights

A lawyer for defendant Henry Montgomery argued Tuesday that Supreme Court justices should apply Miller v. Alabama retroactively to his case

"Mr. Montgomery remains incarcerated based upon a constitutionally disproportionate sentence that could not be imposed today," his lawyer, Mark Plaisance argued in court filings

In general, the court's decisions on criminal law don't normally apply retroactively. But court precedent allows exceptions if the new rule is considered substantial

Washington CNN  — 

More than 50 years ago, Henry Montgomery was sentenced to life without parole for a murder he committed as a 17-year-old. Now he is hoping the Supreme Court will step in and allow him a chance at freedom.

Tuesday, a lawyer for Montgomery argued that the justices should take a case they decided three years ago, and retroactively apply it to his situation. If the court agrees, Montgomery, 69, could get a new sentencing hearing. The ruling could also affect about 2,000 similarly situated inmates in several states.

At the heart of Montgomery’s argument is Miller v. Alabama, a 2012 opinion that held that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders violate the Constitution.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority, said that, “mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features – among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences.”

Lawyers for Montgomery argue that that case should apply to him, even though he committed his crime well before that ruling.

“Mr. Montgomery remains incarcerated based upon a constitutionally disproportionate sentence that could not be imposed today,” his lawyer, Mark Plaisance argued in court filings.

Jurisdictional question

But before the Supreme Court can decide whether Miller applies to Montgomery, the justices must decide a threshold question: whether the court has the authority to hear the case in the first place. Tuesday, several justices had serious questions about their jurisdiction raising the question th