Joan Biskupic has a report, "Court limits harsh terms for youths":
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life without parole for crimes other than murder, in a significant 5-4 decision that says imposing such sentences violates the Constitution's prohibition on "cruel and unusual" punishment.I can't imagine much public support for such a position, and it's going to get worse if Ruth Bader Ginsberg steps down next year, giving President Obama a chance to appoint a third radical leftist to the court during his first term. Frankly, here's a hint that the radical majority on the court won't stop the campaign of "evolving decency" with juvenile defendants:
The court's 5-4 decision — which says that an automatic life sentence for a young offender who has not committed murder violates the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual" punishment — wipes out laws in 37 states.
It means that the 129 juveniles now serving time under such laws will, at some point, have an opportunity to make a case for parole.
Most significantly, the decision — signed by the nine-member court's four more liberal justices and Anthony Kennedy, the conservative who votes with the liberals the most — emphasizes that young criminals are different from adults. And not just when it comes to the death penalty, which the court made off-limits for juveniles in 2005.
"A life without parole sentence improperly denies the juvenile offender a chance to demonstrate growth and maturity," Kennedy wrote for the majority in the decision that found life without parole disproportionally harsh.
The decision immediately generated debate over where the court would go in the future regarding juvenile rights, including the possibility that it could strike down life-without-parole for juvenile murderers.
In Kennedy's opinion for the majority, he highlighted the limited culpability of young offenders and said the usual justifications for harsh sentences, such as deterrence, do not hold up for those under age 18.RTWT at the link. (And Kennedy's appeal to international legal standards is especially appalling.)
Baylor University criminal law professor Mark Osler said Monday's decision arises against the backdrop of a broader national re-examination of harsh sentences, but it is most significant in how it views offenders who are under age 18.