Monday, June 25, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Supreme Court Rules Life Without Parole for Juveniles Unconstitutional

Evan Miller. Image courtesy The North Star News.
In a 5-4 decision this morning in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, the Supreme Court has decided that the Eighth Amendment prohibits mandatory life without parole for juveniles.

The Opinion of the Court, written by Justice Kagan, relies on prior case law - particularly Roper v. Simmons and Graham v. Florida - to delineate the differences between juveniles and adults, particularly their less-formed character and vulnerability to outside influences. While Graham addressed crimes other than murder, its statements about children's development was not crime-specific. Reliance on the discretion of prosecutors, wrote Justice Kagan, is not enough, as many states have mandatory sentencing schemes that require life without parole.

I would like to draw your attention to two important points regarding the Court's decision, which work at cross purposes. On one hand, much of the Graham v. Florida discussion draws a comparison between life without parole and the death penalty. This is a powerful hook that could serve, sometime in the future, as an attempt to abolish life without parole, after we have abolished the death penalty. On the other hand, the case relies heavily on the differentiation between children and adults, which might hinder a delegitimization of life without parole for adults.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's about time that something is done about this. I do feel that if a child commits a crime they should be punished,however life without is a bit much. People must take into consideration that a child's mind is not to it's full capacity. If they are doing the right things and can show signs of change they should be elligable for parole.