May 18, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court prohibits life sentences for youth not involved in a homicide

By a 6 to 3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that permits juvenile offenders to be sentenced to life without parole for offenses other than homicides. The Court found that such a sentence violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. In the decision, Justice Kennedy wrote, “A state need not guarantee the offender eventual release. . .but if it imposes the sentence of life, it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term.”

For insightful commentary on the scope of the Court's ruling, check out the NY Times Opinion page, including pieces by Marc Mauer, of The Sentencing Project, Tracey L. Meares, Deputy Dean, Yale Law School, Kent Scheidegger, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation and Paul Butler, George Washington Law School.
To read the Oral Arguments or Amicus Briefs filed in the suit, click here.