Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Supreme Court set to decide on life without parole for juvies

On May 4, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases out of Florida. Both cases deal with the Constitutionality of a life-without-parole sentence imposed on a minor.

TalkLeft gives a tentative assessment of the way the court may rule given their 2005 ruling in Roper v. Simmons, when they ruled that the death penalty for juveniles was unconstitutional, "because children are 'immature, unformed, irresponsible and susceptible to negative influences, including peer pressure.'" Life without parole, a similarly damning and permanent punishment, is also flawed because "assumes that a child, whose intellectual and emotional development is incomplete, will never change, even after reaching adulthood, and therefore deserves no chance of parole."

I saw the article is tentative because the author quickly hedges his bets:

That the reasoning is parallel does not guarantee that the Supreme Court will apply a death penalty precedent to a lesser punishment than death. The Supreme Court has often declared that "death is different," and the finality associated with death might be viewed as having a different character than the finality of life without parole.
It's a good article.

Meanwhile, does a characteristically excellent job of putting things in perspective:
There are currently 2,225 people in U.S. prisons in 45 states for crimes committed when they were under 18, and the U.S. is nearly alone in sentencing kids to die in prison. In 2006, the U.S. was the only country to vote against a proclamation condemning juvenile LWOP - 186 counties voted for it. Human Rights Watch has found that only three other countries have prisoners who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles.

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