Monday, May 17, 2010

Supreme Court Strikes Down Life Sentences For Juveniles

Today, the United States Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits a life sentence for a juvenile convicted of a non-murder offense. On May 10, 2009 we reported that the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Graham v. Florida.  On November 9, 2009 we reported that the Supreme Court had heard oral arguments on the case.  Today, Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion which held that a life sentence, without the possibility of parole, deprives juveniles of the opportunity to be rehabilitated and rejoin society.  The state cannot deprive a juvenile a chance to demonstrate that the mistakes they made as a juvenile do not demonstrate his true character.  Kennedy stated that the state does not have to guarantee that the juvenile will eventually be released but merely has to provide the juvenile "with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term." 

The dissenters were Justice Thomas and ScaliaAlito dissented in part.

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