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Supreme Court Strikes Down Mandatory Life Without Parole for Juveniles

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Common Dreams staff

(Photo: AP)

In a Supreme Court decision today, judges ruled 5-4 that juveniles convicted of homicide can not be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

The decision written by Justice Elena Kagan stated, "Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features - among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences."

Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, who argued in the two cases in question, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, stated:

"This is an important win for children. The Court took a significant step forward by recognizing the fundamental unfairness of mandatory death-in-prison sentences that don't allow sentencers to consider the unique status of children and their potential for change. The Court has recognized that children need additional attention and protection in the criminal justice system."

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CBS News: Supreme Court strikes down mandatory life without parole for juveniles convicted of homicide

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that it is unconstitutional to mandate a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for a juvenile convicted of homicide.

In previous cases, the court had held that the death penalty for juveniles, as well as life without parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes, was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

In its decision, written by Justice Elena Kagan, the court concluded that, "Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features - among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences."

The two cases before the court, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, involved young men convicted of homicides when they were 14-years-old. [...]

According to Human Rights Watch, a non-profit advocacy organization focused on human rights, approximately 2,570 people are serving life without parole in the United States for crimes they committed before turning 18.

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