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Thread: Supreme Court Restricts Life Sentences for Juveniles

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    Re: Supreme Court bans life sentences for youths who haven't killed

    Quote Originally Posted by Redress View Post
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    Re: Supreme Court bans life sentences for youths who haven't killed

    Quote Originally Posted by Deuce View Post
    I think a 16 year old can be rehabilitated in that case actually.
    yeah they are gonna get rehabilitated. If they spend more than a couple years in prison, they are worse than when they went in if they are in a general population prison.

    prisons tend to turn amateur criminals into professional ones,



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    Re: Supreme Court Restricts Life Sentences for Juveniles

    Whether or not this is a good policy is somewhat irrelevant next to the question of whether it's the SC's job to create new constitutional rights and modify legislatively enacted sentencing schemes.

    If the court was set on creating this new right, the least it could have done would be to lay out exactly what it entailed, rather than to let Kennedy rattle off another multi-factor test that will be misapplied by every circuit that touches it.

    In state prisons scattered across ten states, and in a handful of federal penitentiaries, a group of 129 prisoners on Monday gained a new constitutional right from the Supreme Court, but not one of them yet knows whether the ruling will lead to freedom. Each of them, convicted as minors and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of release, learned that it would no longer be possible for any juvenile to get that sentence in the future if the crime did not involve murder. But the Court did not rule that any of those 129 must now be released, or even that any of them must be re-sentenced. That was not what they won.

    Instead, each of the 129 must be given some chance to show, at some point in the future, that they have matured enough while in prison that they might then be ruled “fit to rejoin society” (in the Court’s phrase) rather than staying in prison for the rest of their lives. And, while every other juvenile who commits a serious “non-homicide” crime from now on has won a right not to be sentenced to life without potential release; the decision leaves open the possibility that conviction for such a juvenile might lead to a definite prison sentence of perhaps 40 or more years, thus stretching their confinement long into the future, perhaps to old age.
    SCOTUSblog Today’s orders and opinions

    Finally, from Justice Thomas' dissent:

    [I]n the end, the Court does not even believe its pronouncements about the juvenile mind. If it did, the categorical rule it announces today would be most peculiar because it leaves intact state and federal laws that permit life-without-parole sentences for juveniles who commit homicides. The Court thus acknowledges that there is nothing inherent in the psyche of a person less than 18 that prevents him from acquiring the moral agency necessary to warrant a life-without-parole sentence. Instead, the Court rejects overwhelming legislative consensus only on the question of which acts are sufficient to demonstrate that moral agency.

    The Court is quite willing to accept that a 17-year-old who pulls the trigger on a firearm can demonstrate sufficient depravity and irredeemability to be denied reentry into society, but insists that a 17-year-old who rapes an 8-year-old and leaves her for dead does not. Thus, the Court’s conclusion that life-without-parole sentences are “grossly disproportionate” for juvenile nonhomicide offenders in fact has very little to do with its view of juveniles, and much more to do with its perception that “defendants who do not kill, intend to kill, or foresee that life will be taken are categorically less deserving of the most serious forms of punishment than are murderers.”
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    Re: Supreme Court Restricts Life Sentences for Juveniles

    The Fox article says that it was a 5-4 decision, but the SCOTUS-blog says it was 6-3.

    Am I missing something?

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    Re: Supreme Court Restricts Life Sentences for Juveniles

    Quote Originally Posted by 1984 View Post
    The Fox article says that it was a 5-4 decision, but the SCOTUS-blog says it was 6-3.

    Am I missing something?
    Justice Roberts only concurred in the specific result in this case, not in the logic that the majority used to lay out this new right.
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    Re: Supreme Court Restricts Life Sentences for Juveniles

    Quote Originally Posted by RightinNYC View Post
    Whether or not this is a good policy is somewhat irrelevant next to the question of whether it's the SC's job to create new constitutional rights and modify legislatively enacted sentencing schemes.
    It's not really a new right persay...just a new application of the 8th amendment.

    Quote Originally Posted by RightinNYC
    I understand Thomas' point, but the fact is that courts (as well as society at large) have always accepted different standards of "cruel and unusual" for different crimes. If some state was sentencing people to life in prison for routine traffic violations, the Court would almost certainly rule it to be cruel and unusual. But they don't do the same thing for homicides.
    Last edited by Kandahar; 05-18-10 at 03:40 AM.
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    Re: Supreme Court Restricts Life Sentences for Juveniles

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    It's not really a new right persay...just a new application of the 8th amendment.
    It's a distinction without a difference. Prior to this decision, there was nothing to say that a juvenile couldn't be sentenced to life without parole. Now, those juveniles have a constitutional right to have a "chance" to prove that they're good people at some point.

    I understand Thomas' point, but the fact is that courts (as well as society at large) have always accepted different standards of "cruel and unusual" for different crimes. If some state was sentencing people to life in prison for routine traffic violations, the Court would almost certainly rule it to be cruel and unusual. But they don't do the same thing for homicides.

    His argument is more in response to the logic used by the majority to reach this result. In arguing for special protections for juveniles, the majority spends much of its opinion talking about how juveniles aren't really fully mentally developed yet. It then said that as a result of that lack of mental development, it would be cruel and unusual to sentence them to life in prison without possibility of parole in these cases. However, the court has also said that it's perfectly fine to sentence juveniles to life without parole if they kill someone. If we follow the majority's logic in this case, I don't see why the result should be any different - if juveniles are so undeveloped that they should have an opportunity to show rehabilitation at some later point, then why doesn't that apply in murder cases? As Thomas asks, is a 17 year old who shoots someone more likely to be "incurable" than a 17 year old who beats and rapes a child and leaves her for dead?
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    Re: Supreme Court Restricts Life Sentences for Juveniles

    Quote Originally Posted by RightinNYC View Post
    His argument is more in response to the logic used by the majority to reach this result. In arguing for special protections for juveniles, the majority spends much of its opinion talking about how juveniles aren't really fully mentally developed yet. It then said that as a result of that lack of mental development, it would be cruel and unusual to sentence them to life in prison without possibility of parole in these cases. However, the court has also said that it's perfectly fine to sentence juveniles to life without parole if they kill someone. If we follow the majority's logic in this case, I don't see why the result should be any different - if juveniles are so undeveloped that they should have an opportunity to show rehabilitation at some later point, then why doesn't that apply in murder cases? As Thomas asks, is a 17 year old who shoots someone more likely to be "incurable" than a 17 year old who beats and rapes a child and leaves her for dead?
    It's a point well taken, but I can still see some difference here. Generally speaking, we don't treat juveniles as harshly as we treat adults since they are considered to be immature. Also, we don't treat lesser crimes as harshly as we treat more serious crimes. So I don't necessarily see a conflict here: Whereas an adult might be sentenced to life in prison without parole for child rape, a juvenile will receive a lesser sentence (life in prison WITH parole). And whereas an adult might be sentenced to execution for murder, a juvenile will receive a lesser sentence (life in prison without parole).

    For any given crime, the juvenile is treated more leniently than the adult. The majority opinion isn't necessarily saying that it's inherently unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life in prison without parole, due to their immaturity...they're just saying that given their immaturity, it's unconstitutional for this particular crime. Similarly, while the court doesn't uniformly rule execution to be cruel and unusual punishment, they probably would rule it was cruel and unusual for routine traffic offenses.
    Last edited by Kandahar; 05-18-10 at 04:17 AM.
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    Re: Supreme Court Restricts Life Sentences for Juveniles

    Quote Originally Posted by RightinNYC View Post
    Justice Roberts only concurred in the specific result in this case, not in the logic that the majority used to lay out this new right.
    I feel a bit like Roberts here, though granted I won't sugest I can make any informed decision without looking at the case. But my gut actually does agree with the notion of cruel and unusual for juveniles to get life in prison sentences in most cases.

    That said...

    What actually GIVES life in prison sentences? Rape? Manslaughter? B&E? Theft?

    What other than Murder does? I think that'd be an important part to think of. What acts exactly are likely to get Life that we're saying is somehow acceptable to think that Juveniles shouldn't get life for it, while it is accceptable if they kill someone.

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    Re: Supreme Court Restricts Life Sentences for Juveniles

    Quote Originally Posted by RightinNYC View Post
    Whether or not this is a good policy is somewhat irrelevant next to the question of whether it's the SC's job to create new constitutional rights and modify legislatively enacted sentencing schemes.

    If the court was set on creating this new right, the least it could have done would be to lay out exactly what it entailed, rather than to let Kennedy rattle off another multi-factor test that will be misapplied by every circuit that touches it.



    SCOTUSblog Today’s orders and opinions

    Finally, from Justice Thomas' dissent:
    I disagree. It is not SCOTUS creating a new right, but upholding an existing right, that of no cruel or unusual punishment. Basically, the punishment should fit the crime.
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