(Washington, D.C.) A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court today in a 5-4 vote banned mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles 17 and under in cases involving murder, ruling these sentences “cruel and unusual punishment.”
The ruling involved two cases; one in which a 14-year-old Alabama teen who was convicted in the arson and beating death of a man in 2003. The teen and his accomplice beat the man to death and set his trailer on fire. The other case involved an Arkansas teen, who was 14-years-old, when in 1999 he robbed a video store and shot and killed the clerk.
The ruling follows other similar cases the high court has made in the past – including banning the death penalty and life-without-parole for juveniles who commit serious crimes that do not involve murder.
Writing for the majority and summarizing the opinion for the court, Justice Elena Kagan in which Justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg Stephen Bryer and Sonia Sotomayer joined said ”Children are constitutionality different from adults for sentencing purposes.”
Kagan also said that juveniles “lack of maturity and underdeveloped sense of responsibility “may lead them to commit reckless and serious crimes with impulsivity and not having the reasoning ability that adults have. In its ruling the court agreed that juvenile offenders are much more likely to be rehabilitated than their adult counterparts.
However, the ruling permits judges to consider the teen's life and factors involving the crime while stresing that life-without-parole sentences involving those under 17 should be rare.
Currently thirty-eight states permit juveniles to be sentenced to life-without-parole in cases involving murder.
U.S. Supreme Court Case 10-9646 Miller v. Alabama