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  • Court Upholds Life Without Parole for Juvenile Killers

    There are positive and negative aspects to today’s 6-3 Supreme Court ruling in Graham v. Florida that it is unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile non-homicide offender to life without the possibility of parole.

    On the positive side, the Court upheld the constitutionality of life without parole (LWOP) for juvenile killers. Over 90% of juveniles serving LWOP are murderers, so this ruling won’t affect them at all. That means that the 1200 or so juvenile killers serving LWOP got no relief from this case.

    Furthermore, states can continue to sentence appropriate juvenile killers to LWOP. The Court clearly recognized that states must be able to incarcerate the worst of the worst for life.

    The Court, by implication, adopted The Heritage Foundation’s statistics regarding the number of jurisdictions that allow for juvenile LWOP; 44 states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia. In so doing, the Court soundly rejected the manufactured statistics of the anti-incarceration crowd.

    Also, the Court’s ruling allows for life with parole sentences for juveniles convicted of serious non-homicides. Thus, state sentencing schemes do not have to guarantee the convicted offender eventual release; rather, the state only needs to provide him with “some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term.”

    On the negative side, the Court misread the meaning of the Eighth Amendment, which simply does not speak to this issue. Furthermore, it cites to foreign law to justify its result, and relies on the rarity of juvenile LWOP sentences to strike them down, rather than recognizing that this just means they are imposed judiciously.

    As a practical matter, the 140 or so juveniles this affects will be re-sentenced in state courts. Many of those same juveniles will be sentenced, I predict, to long sentences, including life with parole sentences.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to Court Upholds Life Without Parole for Juvenile Killers

    1. West Texan says:

      " … the Court misread the meaning of the Eighth Amendment, which simply does not speak to this issue."

      This depends. A life sentence, regardless of an offenders age, could be viewed as cruel and unusual punishment. I do agree that such sentencing is justified and necessary to address serious malevolence and/or public safety.

    2. jusayin says:

      i agree with you that i suspect that those will be re sentenced to verrrry long sentences but they will be about 80 or 90 before parole eligibility

    3. elijah sweete says:

      The Eighth Amendment analysis in this case is not fundamentally different from many prior cases. Nor is the unfortunate reference to foreign countries, which the Cout admits is unnecessary to this decision.

      Graham v. Florida is not a game changer.

    4. Billie says:

      I agree on one condition. If sentenced as a killer, there can be no potential chance it was an accident. I can just see an accident being deemed a killing with this discriminating, bias, racist government people, that'll go vice versa.

    5. cincinnati kid says:

      As our society takes on the depravity of third world countries we must adapt with inclusive laws here in our country to maintain some semblance of social order and civil society. To fall back on race, gender or sexual preference bias as a determining factor in a court decision is at a minimum, lame.

    6. PolitiComm, Denver says:

      Let me just pose this scenario for you: I'm a kid. My parents are beating me on a daily basis. Social services has been called on my behalf, but they don't respond in a timely fashion (within a year, say). The good natured sheriff came out to talk to my parents when I tried to run away, but decided I was better left in their care. I eventually steal my father's gun and the next time he beats me, I shoot him in self-defense. I shoot my mother when she tries to interfere. The district attorney looks at the evidence and decides to try me as an adult for which I will be eligible (under Colorado Law) for two consecutive 40 year terms. At age 14, I'll be 94 before I get out. I'll just note one thing here. If I were an adult, I wouldn't have had reason to defend myself. This scenario is playing out right now. If you were being beaten on a daily basis, what would you have done differently? The recent Supreme Court Decision will have no bearing on this scenario. Fair or unfair?

      There are currently 50 juveniles serving life without parole in Colorado. Many of them were convicted under similar circumstances. I want my conservative friends to tell me that children don't have the right to defend themselves when they're given no other option.

    7. Me, Oregon says:

      You know. I know someone who committed a crime that included homicide when this person was under the age of 18. Honestly, this person would never re-offend. Why? Scared. This person does not even know what was going on when the offense happened. Until a few years later this person was finally able to understand the gravity of the situation.

      There are predatory type criminals out there. I agree that some people are a threat to society. But what kind of country are we if we can't protect our children? This person who has been given this sentance had a public defendor to support the case. Now 20 years after the original sentance I have had the opportunity to look back on what happened in court. Honestly. This person was not represented to protect the child. It was to prove a point and that is exactly what the judge said when he threw away the key. I think children require protection.

      I think taking a look at this decision to include minors committed of homicide if they are reformed to be included in the opportunity to receive parole.

      It would support our children and give them a voice.

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