The key word in that title is mandatory.
SCOTUS had a big day today, with decisons on Arizona’s immigration law and Montana’s ant-Citizens United law.
The first case ruled on today though involved a juvenile sentenced to life without parole for a crime committed at 14. That law was overturned 5-4, with the court ruling that it violates the Eighth Amendment bar on cruel and unusual punishment. Kagan wrote the majority opinion, and Alito the dissent.
More on the decision (and as-to-be-expected gloating and cheering) from the Huffington Post:
The Supreme Court on Monday abolished the imposition of mandatory sentences of life without parole for all juveniles convicted of murder.
Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the 5-4 majority, said, “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 this principle of proportionality, and so the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.”
The ruling that such sentences violate the Eighth Amendment continues the juvenile justice reform movement’s streak of victories at the high court over the last decade. In 2005, the justices eliminated the death penalty for minors. In 2010, the court struck down life-without-parole sentences for all juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion both times, joined by the court’s four-justice liberal bloc.
In the two cases decided together on Monday, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, Kennedy once again sided with the liberals — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Kagan made it clear that her opinion did not impact those juvenile homicide offenders who had been sentenced to life without parole in states where it was not mandatory. Monday’s opinion, the majority wrote, struck down only those sentencing regimes that prevent a jury from considering a juvenile’s “chronological age and its hallmark features — among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences,” as well as “the family and home environment that surrounds him — and from which he cannot usually extricate himself — no matter how brutal or dysfunctional.”
To be clear…a 17 year old rabid, murdering animal can still be sentenced to life without parole by a jury of his peers; it just can’t be mandatory. So there’s still some good news that sane and justice-seeking juries will still sentence deserving animals accordingly (and voluntarily).
The ruling does not have an affect in Texas, because our own state courts ruled that juveniles could not be sentenced to life without parole for murder. In 2005 the Texas Legislature voted to let jurors choose life without parole or execution for capital murder (SCOTUS banned executing juvenile killers in 2005), however, in 2009 the law was amended to ban no-parole sentences for those who committed murder while younger than 18.
As I’ve said these rulings are slippery slope. Opponents of the death penalty argue that it’s cruel and unusual, and argue for a life sentence instead. Once SCOTUS rules that the death penalty cannot be applied, they then argue that Life without parole is cruel and unusual.
So what’s next? Arguing that a 20 year sentence is cruel and unusual? What’s the end game of the pro-criminal agenda? N0 prisons?
Via The Damn Dirty Rino:
The sovereignty of states in determining the best course for protecting the safety of their law-abiding citizens against the threat of known killers is apparently of little consequence in the eyes of the Supreme Court.
And a couple of reactions via Twitter:
Am grateful that we as a nation consider locking a 14-year-old up for life without parole cruel and unusual. #scotus
— Amy Davidson (@tnyCloseRead) June 25, 2012
You know what’s even more cruel? When 16-year old gang members like Efrain Perez and Raul Villarreal to brutally rape and murderer two teenage girls, knowing they’ll eventually get a chance to do it again later in life. These two sick animals are among 20 Texas juveniles who were sentenced to life without parole between 2005–2009, before the new Texas law prohibiting it.
I’m guessing these thugs will now get new sentencing hearings in Texas. Which means they’ll be out on our city streets again while they’re still young enough and capable of raping and killing more of our children. And, they’ll have the benefit of 40 years in prison to become stronger and more violent than when they entered the system.
RT @adamserwer: SCOTUS rules the juvenile life without parole violates the eighth amendment. That’s good news.
— Slate (@Slate) June 25, 2012
Not for the people who will be killed by these now-even-more-hardended and violent psycopaths when they are eventually released back into society.