On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court will decide whether a sentence of life in prison for a 14 year old convicted of murder is unconstitutional. In 2003, when he was just 14 years old, Evan Miller was convicted of arson and murder in Alabama. On the very same day that Miller was found guilty of murder and arson by a jury, the judge sentenced him to life in prison without any hearing or evidence. In addition to his age, Miller had a troubled youth which included domestic violence, drug abuse and attempted suicide. Miller was sentenced to life in prison as an automatic consequence of his conviction for murder and arson. Miller's case will be heard at the same time as a similar case involving an Arkansas 14 year old defendant sentenced to life in prison who had also been convicted of murdering his 52 year old neighbor. Both cases will be argued by the same attorney who will argue that sentencing juveniles to life in prison violates the 8th Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In the past few years, the Supreme Court has issued rulings that protect juveniles. They have prohibited the imposition of the death penalty for juveniles and ruled against allowing jail sentences the provide for life without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of crimes less than murder. Alabama and Arkansas disagree and are supported by 19 other states around the country who argue for the constitutionality of life sentences for juveniles. They point out that 38 states allow for juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole and 14 states make it mandatory for juveniles convicted of murder.
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