Supreme Court Invalidates Mandatory Life Without Parole for Juveniles

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, today ruled that juvenile sentences to life without parole violate the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The opinion is here.

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    Not quite, I think (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Peter G on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 12:08:33 PM EST
    They held that state sentencing laws that make life w/o parole mandatory in all cases of murder, even when the crime was committed by someone under 18, without consideration of the perpetrator's age and maturity, are unconstitutional.  They left open the possibility that in rare, individual cases, where the state's law allows the judge or jury a choice of sentence, an individual defendant who was under 18 (or even under 15) at the time of the killing might properly be sentenced to LWOP.

    Yes (none / 0) (#2)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 12:16:26 PM EST
    We therefore hold that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishments."

    empasis mine.


    I like Justice Kagan's (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by KeysDan on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 12:53:02 PM EST
    opinion for the Court, which not only faults the absence of discretion in sentencing, even if a judge or jury felt that the youth and circumstances would suggest a more appropriate sentence, such as life with the possibility of parole,  but also, it brings intelligence and emerging standards of decency to considerations of punishment.

    Just as capital punishment for children and sentencing of life without parole for a child who committed a non-homicidal crime  has been prohibited, so too does it seem right to do so by matching punishment to circumstances in these cases, taking into account culpability and maturation of youth.

    The problem comes in (none / 0) (#5)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 12:57:34 PM EST
    When you have a bright line.  Both of the crimes in the cases ruled on today were 14 when their crimes were committed.  But in other cases, what if they were 17?  Would they all of a sudden wake up on their 18th birthday and have "full mental culpability" that they did not have the day before?  And haven't you met 14 year olds that were mature and wise beyond their years  - how could you argue that "they didn't know any better"?

    This was a very good ruling today.


    No, I haven't met any 14 year olds (5.00 / 5) (#8)
    by CST on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 02:20:45 PM EST
    with the mental functioning level of an adult.

    And we don't need new broad rules, we need to judge each case individually on it's merits.


    Hmmm (none / 0) (#18)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 06:20:12 AM EST
    I knew better at 14 years old than not to do things like bludgeon a man to death and then set him on fire after getting high and getting drunk (the Jackson case) or to hang with people who were about to rob a 7-11 (the Miller case).  My guess is that you did too.

    changing the metrics (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by CST on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 09:59:41 AM EST
    You asked if I knew 14 year olds who were wise beyond their years.  And my answer was no, not really.  Unless you mean "wise" like a 16 year old.

    And the idea that a "wise beyond their years" 14 year old would do the things you just mention is also a stretch.  A 14 year old who is "wise" could just mean they have seen too much of life, and so they appear older, when really they're kind of just damaged.  I've known some mature 14 year olds I guess.  The responsible type.  Not the kind that do the things you're mentioning.  And again, they are "mature" like an average 16 year old, not like an adult.  In any case, by any metric, a 14 year old is a KID.  I knew better at 6 not to do that, I probably was more likely to do something bad at 14 than 6, that doesn't mean 6 is more mature.


    So we agree then (none / 0) (#21)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 10:23:20 AM EST
    As I said - this is a hard rule to have a bright line for (even though they do) because on a case-by-case basis, there are 14 year olds that can be held mentally culpable as adults.

    And "maturity" is relative.  I know lots of 20 and 30 (and 40) somethings that I would not classify as "mature".


    we agree on what? (4.25 / 4) (#22)
    by CST on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 10:38:14 AM EST
    that 14 year olds shouldn't be sentanced to life without parole because they are kids?  And that not a single 14 year old is mentally an adult, not even on a case by case basis.  Because that's clearly what I'm saying.

    Glad you've finally seen the light.


    Or maybe (2.00 / 2) (#23)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 10:50:37 AM EST
    You are being purposefully obtuse.

    Do you support parental notification laws?


    everytime this subject comes up (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by CST on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 10:57:40 AM EST
    you bring this up.

    People who oppose parental notification laws don't do so because they think 14 year olds are old enough to make those decisions.  They do so to protect the person from their parents.

    That being said, after some long conversations here about parental notification laws I'm on the fence about it.  There were some very good points brought up in favor of notification, namely that if there is a real problem the last thing you want is for someone to stay silent about it.


    Yes I do (none / 0) (#25)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 11:15:39 AM EST
    Just as you keep bring up other points on other topics.  And other people keeping bringing up other points on other subjects.  It's called  - trying to get the point across (to no avail, it seems).

    Only one of the points about parentl notification has to do with portection.  The others, many people will argue, is that it is about a women's right to choose.  They will argue that a 14 or 15 year old girl can make the decision to terminate a pregnancy becuase she is old enough to get pregnant in the first place, and therefore, is mentally culpable to make that decision.  However, some of those same people will argue that a 15 year is NEVER mentally culpable to make a decision about committing a crime.  You can't have it both ways.

    It's called "hypocrisy."


    I'm not trying to have it both ways (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by CST on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 11:21:34 AM EST
    and that's nice that you think "some people" who argue that are hypocrits.  Feel free to rant about those people all you want, I don't feel the need to speak for or defend them, it has nothing to do with my point of view.  If anyone here has that point of view they are free to defend themselves, but I doubt you'll find them.

    What is your opinion on parental notification?  Do you think a 14 year old is mature enough to make that decision?  If not, do you think they are mature enough to go to prison for life?  By your logic that would also be hypocritical no?  Another word that I would use is nuance.


    Have you ever had an 18 year old child? (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by sj on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 04:45:13 PM EST
    No way do they have "full mental" anything.  But a line needed to be drawn, and a war needed cannon fodder, so at 18, one is declared an adult.

    So I say treat that 17 year old as a "not-adult" even if his/her birthday is tomorrow.  

    If you want to draw a line, that's mine.


    Yes, certainly it would be better (5.00 / 4) (#12)
    by Peter G on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 05:00:04 PM EST
    as a matter of penological policy, to have wise discretion exercised in every sentencing, and to have no mandatory penalties for any crime.  But there is no chance that the Court will hold that any part of the Constitution requires the states (or Congress) to adopt that philosophy. This decision may be about as far as that kind of thinking can go and still muster five votes.

    Preview is my friend (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 12:58:30 PM EST
    This was a good ruling today, but we are just going to keep having to make rules for every activity based on age.

    did "they know any better" (none / 0) (#14)
    by Rojas on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 10:36:11 PM EST
    should be the standard?
    or "future dangerousness? Are we going to trade sending kids to college to keep someone in prison who is no longer a threat?

    Well at least they got something right (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Buckeye on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 12:55:40 PM EST
    Of course, being a 5-4 ruling, it is just barely cruel and unusual punishment.

    Makes you wonder what the 4... (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 01:17:11 PM EST
    actually consider cruel & unusual...unless you approach Inquisition-esque punishment it's all good?

    Chief Justice Roberts (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by KeysDan on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 03:09:51 PM EST
    found such sentencing to be "usual" not unusual, since many young people are in jail for life without possibility of parole.   So there you have it, cruel and usual--and, hence, not so cruel.  

    Inquisition-esque punishment (3.40 / 5) (#11)
    by sj on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 04:50:58 PM EST
    is also fine with them.  Do you see a difference between water boarding and water torture?

    My guess is that in order for it to be cruel and unusual it has to be suffered by their kind of people.  As long as it's us little people, anything the state wishes to dish out is fine.  Unless it's helpful.  Then it costs too much.

    Yeah.  I'm pretty sure those are the rules.


    How will this ruling be applied... (none / 0) (#15)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 10:42:39 PM EST
    to the roughly 25 inmates sentenced to LWP here in Colorado?  Would they be re-sentenced individually or all retroactively sentenced under Section 18-1.3-401(4)(b), C.R.S.?

    Or, would the legislature have to pass something addressing their re-sentencing next session?

    Will (none / 0) (#16)
    by Kelwood on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 12:50:35 AM EST
    this affect the Cristian Fernandez case?

    That was (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by DebFrmHell on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 03:56:57 AM EST
    my first thought, too!   The mother is the one that web-surfed for some six hours while the toddler, David, lay dying.  

    The adult who has the opportunity to save her child but does nothing should be held to a higher standard than that of a 12 yr old child.  

    That child was being treated as the man of the house.  He had a history anger issues with his little brother.  Why didn't CPS step in to avoid this set of circumstances?  He was not the parent.

    Biannela Susana gets the aggravated manslaughter while her child gets the murder charge?  Seems like the charges should be reversed.  

    What a terrible life he has had.  And I have grave doubts that it will ever get better for him.  

    Wishful thinking:
    There should be some psychological system in place for the rehabilitation of that young man, and children like him.

    Sad reality:
    Of course, that would be considered as cost prohibitive.  Why try to save a life when the State can save a buck instead?

    Just IMO.  


    I hope so (none / 0) (#20)
    by sj on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 10:18:19 AM EST
    CPS (none / 0) (#27)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 12:11:01 PM EST
     They don't step in because they don't have perfect knowledge.  Also, taking a child away from mom is a good way to get in trouble unless the need is blindingly obvious.  Not the case here.