|High Court Bars Mandatory Life-Without-Parole for Teen Murderers|
|By thecrimereport.org - Graham Kates and Ted Gest|
The attorney for two men serving mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole for crimes committed when they were 14 lauded a Supreme Court ruling today calling the sentences “cruel and unusual.”
Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative, said the court recognized that fundamental differences between adults and children should be considered in felony murder cases.
“The court has made an incredibly important step forward in recognizing what I think has been one of the great tragedies in American criminal justice,” Stevenson said during a conference call with reporters.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution's Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment bars mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of murder.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion that mandatory life sentences prevent judges and juries from considering a juvenile’s ‘lessened culpability.’
"By requiring that all children convicted of homicide receive lifetime incarceration without possibility of parole, regardless of their age and age-related characteristics and the nature of their crimes, the mandatory sentencing schemes before us violate [the] principle of proportionality, and so the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment," Kagan said.
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