Mandatory Life for Juveniles - KOTA Territory News

Mandatory Life for Juveniles

Gary Jensen
Beardsley, Jensen and Von Wald

The United States Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that judges cannot impose mandatory – automatic - life sentences without parole on juveniles convicted of homicide as that violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Justice Kagan wrote for the majority, stating "imposition of a State's most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children."  The Court determined that the offender's age and circumstances as well as the nature of the crime must be considered before life without parole can be imposed.  

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Alito charged that the majority reached its result based on "personal views," rather than a reasoned assessment of what state legislators have determined as penalties for murder.  

Chief Justice Roberts, Jr., who wrote the main dissent, argued that the simple fact that there are more than 2,000 juveniles in such circumstances means that the punishment is not unusual.

This decision in Miller v. Arizona, 567 U.S. ____ (2012) reflects a court that is bitterly divided on this particular issue.

E-mail Gary is intended as general information on legal issues affecting us all.  This information should not be relied upon in any particular case and should never be used in lieu of consulting with an attorney.

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