Supreme Court Forbids Mandatory Life Sentences Without Parole for Juveniles

UPDATED Tuesday, 9:23 a.m.: WASHINGTON – Advocates for juvenile justice reform applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 5-to-4 ruling yesterday that children under 18 could not be handed life imprisonment sentences without hope of release – even if convicted of murder – without taking into account their age and other extenuating circumstances at the time of the crime. “Held: The Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders,” read the majority opinion written by Justice Elena Kagan, which combined the court’s ruling on two cases, Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, sharply disagreeing that such sentences constituted cruel and unusual punishment for what were “heinous” crimes to society. “Put simply, if a 17-year-old is convicted of deliberately murdering an innocent victim, it is not ‘unusual’ for the murderer to receive a mandatory sentence of life without parole,” Roberts wrote. Kagan responded in a footnote to her opinion that she finds it ironic that the dissenters are holding a 14-year-old’s actions to the same standard as a 17-year-old’s, given that the main finding of the majority is that courts must take individual circumstances into account before deciding on a sentence.

BREAKING: Supreme Court Strikes Down Juvenile Mandatory LWOP

Updated: 12:07 p.m. In a 5-4 decision issued Monday morning, the Supreme Court ruled the Eighth Amendment prohibits mandatory sentences of life without possibility of parole for juveniles (JLWOP). The decision stems from two cases—Jackson v Hobbs and Miller v Alabama—involving 14-year-olds convicted of murder and sentenced to mandatory life terms.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion, holding that mandatory JLWOP violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, citing as precedent Roper v Simmons. “That right ‘flows from the basic “precept of justice that punishment for crime should be graduated and proportioned,” to both the offender and the offense,’ ” Kagan wrote. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the dissenting opinion.

The High Court Should Give Juveniles the Chance to Prove They Have Changed

I suppose it was difficult to imagine Louis Perez changing course. He was only 14 years old when I met him in a probation camp, and yet, he seemed entrenched in the deepest, lethal absence of hope. Unable at that young age to transform his pain of abuse, abandonment and torture, he seemed set on a path doomed to transmit his pain forever. Now, almost 20 years later, after considerable prison time and having been stuck in a desperate cycle of gang violence and drugs, Louis runs things for me at Homeboy Industries, the nation’s largest gang rehab and re-entry program. It shouldn’t surprise us that children and teenagers aren’t the same people once they become adults.

U.S. Supreme Court Heard Key Juvenile Cases Tuesday

Story by John Kelly and Ryan Schill

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two murder cases that resulted in mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juvenile offenders, both of whom were 14 at the time of crime. At the heart of both cases is the question of the constitutionality of sentencing a minor to die in prison. Below is a primer with everything you need to know about Tuesday’s oral arguments, and what events led up to them. The issue

Life without the possibility of parole, which has the common shorthand of LWOP, is the most severe penalty other than death that is handed down to convicts. A prisoner who receives an LWOP sentence will never have the opportunity to become a free citizen again, regardless of his or her attempts to rehabilitate in prison.

High Court to Rule on Constitutionality of Life Sentences for Minors Convicted of Murder

The U.S Supreme Court is set to hear two cases that will test the constitutionality of sentencing juveniles convicted of murder to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Last month, the nation’s highest court agreed to review Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, two cases involving juveniles convicted of murder, to determine whether life imprisonment sentences for minors found guilty of homicide is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson were both found guilty of committing capital murder when they were 14. In 2003, Miller was found guilty of beating his neighbor, Cole Cannon, with a baseball bat and subsequently setting fire to his trailer home, where Cannon died from smoke inhalation. In 1999, Jackson, then an Arkansas youth, was charged with felony murder stemming from a video store robbery, in which an accomplice shot and killed clerk Laurie Troup.