Woman seen from back, dressed in black, behind bars, with only hair spotlighted.

Pennsylvanian With Life Sentence Deserves Chance at Facing Victim’s Family, Parole

Several years ago I wrote an opinion column about Marie Scott, a 19-year-old woman sentenced to life without parole in 1973 by the criminal justice system in Philadelphia.
Today, her co-defendant remains in prison waiting for his parole date. Leroy Saxton was 16 years old when he shot their victim to death.

Connecticut Mulls Outlawing Juvenile Life Without Parole

Connecticut’s Sentencing Commission is currently evaluating a proposal that would outlaw juvenile sentences of 10 years or greater without parole opportunities, The CT Mirror reports. The proposal, if enacted, would affect every juvenile in the state currently sentenced to 10 or more years. Offenders sentenced to 60 years or less would have parole hearings after serving half of their sentences, while offenders sentenced to 60 or more years under the proposal would have parole eligibility after serving 30 years. Under the sentence modifications, young people sentenced to 20 years would become eligible for parole by the time they were 24, while 17-year-olds sentenced to 60 or more years would have parole opportunities when they turned 47. The proposal includes an additional plan that would seek to develop “Certificate of Rehabilitation“ programs, which are “aimed at reducing barriers faced by individuals with convictions and encouraging reintegration into communities.”

A public hearing on the proposal will be held on Nov.

California Guarantees Chance at Parole for Juveniles Facing Life Sentences

With the signature of Governor Jerry Brown, California, minus a few exceptions, joins the handful of states that guarantee an opportunity at parole to juveniles convicted of murder. After serving 15 years, most of California’s roughly 300 so-called juvenile lifers will get a chance to ask for something they thought they would never see: a reduced sentence. The new law allows judges to reduce a life-without-parole sentence to a 25-years-to-life sentence. That means the possibility of an appointment with the parole board. “It’s very exciting, it’s huge,” said Dana Isaac, director of the Project to End Juvenile Life Without Parole at the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Pennsylvania High Court to Make Make Key Call on Juvenile Life Sentences

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today that may lead to a chance at parole for more than 400 inmates convicted of murder as minors. The Court is deciding if a June 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision is retroactive, and if so, what sentence should be given to two convicts in today’s cases. The federal court, in Miller v. Alabama, said that minors convicted of murder have a right to present mitigating factors — such as the immaturity of youth — to sentencing judges. That invalidates one-size-fits-all mandatory life without parole sentences listed in federal and 28 states’ statutes. “It’s about retroactivity and also resentencing,” said Marsha Levick, deputy director of the Juvenile Law Center in Pennsylvania, who is arguing for retroactivity before the court.

Attorneys General Respond to Juvenile Life Without Parole Ban

Weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court says juvenile murderers cannot automatically be sent to prison for life without the chance at parole, attorneys general, soon to be joined by courts, are laying down what may be influential alternative sentences. The Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama decision in June 2012 invalidates mandatory sentencing laws in 28 states and federal court that send juveniles convicted of murder straight to life without parole. The court said juveniles are less mature, therefore less culpable, and entitled to present mitigating factors to a sentencing judge. In Florida, where Miller may affect more than 200 people, Attorney General Pam Bondi acknowledges that some inmates are entitled to relief, but in an early case, her office argues that a replacement sentence is already set. Down in the Florida panhandle, a Bay County jury in 2009 found Jose Gonzalez guilty of murdering a man the year before during a robbery, when the defendant was under 18.

U.S. Supreme Court Questions If Juvenile Killers Should be Given Second Chance

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today in the cases of two offenders, sentenced at a young age to die in prison, and may choose to further limit such sentences for minors. Kuntrell Jackson of Arkansas and Evan Miller of Alabama were both 14 years old when they were convicted of a homicide, and both were sentenced to life sentences without the possibility of parole (LWOP). For more on the background of their cases, click here. A juvenile’s “deficits in maturity and judgment and decision-making are not crime specific,” said Bryan Stevenson, who represented both offenders. “All children are encumbered by the same barriers.” Stevenson argued that this was the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from the court’s other two recent cases on juvenile sentencing, Roper v Simmons and Graham v Florida.

Life Without Parole for Juveniles: A Brief Look at the Issues

Tuesday the Supreme Court will take up the issue of life sentences without parole (LWOP) for juveniles convicted of murder. In 2010, the nation’s high court ruled juvenile LWOP sentences were unconstitutional in non-homicide crimes. Now, advocates are hopeful the court will extend the same protection to all juveniles, regardless of the offense. Pointing to research indicating that brains continue to develop into the early 20s, some groups, including the American Bar Association, argue juveniles are uniquely suited to rehabilitation and that a life sentence without the possibility of parole is a violation of the Eighth and 14th Amendments’ prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. Juvenile LWOP sentences are, in fact, very rare, especially for 14-year-olds, the age of both juveniles sentenced in the two cases before the court.

Report Looks at Lives of Inmates Sentenced to Life Without Parole as Juveniles

With the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in a case that could determine the constitutionality of life sentences without parole for juveniles, a new report looks at the lives of the more than 2,300 people currently serving life sentences for crimes they committed before they turned 18. The new report, “The Lives of Juvenile Lifers,” analyzes the findings of a first-ever national survey of this unique prison population. “The goal was to find out more about who these people are, their community and background,” Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which produced the report, said during a conference call Wednesday. Ashley Nellis, the report’s author and a research analyst at the Sentencing Project, said the intention was to highlight the individual stories of those serving sentences of life without parole. “A lot of times we hear solely about the offense for which they are serving,” she said.

Juvenile Life Without Parole At Issue in Case Before U.S. Supreme Court

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases that could determine whether life sentences without parole for juvenile killers is unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment. Attorneys for the two 14-year-olds involved in the cases will argue forensic evidence shows adolescent brains are not fully developed and that teenagers consequently take too many risks, according to The Los Angeles Times. “Adolescents, because of their immaturity, should not be deemed as culpable as adults,” Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg, who spearheaded the research, said. “But they also are not innocent children whose crimes should be excused.” The high court abolished the death penalty for juveniles in 2005 and ruled in 2010 that life sentences without parole for juveniles were unconstitutional except in cases of homicide.