In Miller and Jackson, the United States Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of imposing life without parole sentences on juveniles convicted of homicide offenses. Miller and Jackson were convicted of homicide offenses for crimes they committed as juveniles, and both received mandatory life without parole sentences.
Juvenile Law Center submitted one of several amicus briefs in support of Miller and Jackson, serving as lead counsel for 90 advocacy organizations and individuals across the country. The brief argues that the imposition of life without parole sentences on juveniles violates the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment because, as the Supreme Court held in Roper v. Simmons and Graham v. Florida, juveniles as a class are less culpable for their criminal conduct than adults.
Juvenile Law Center also argues that a mandatory life without parole sentence precludes considerations of the individual juvenile offender or the circumstances of his crime. Additionally, Jackson's life without parole sentence following a conviction of felony murder is squarely at odds with the Supreme Court's holding in Graham that juveniles who neither kill, intend to kill, or foresee that life will be taken are constitutionally ineligible for such sentences.
The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in both cases on March 20, 2012. In an opinion delivered by Justice Kagan on June 25, 2012, the Court held that "mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishments' and that a 'judge or jury must have the opportunity to consider mitigating circumstances before imposing the harshest possible penalty for juveniles.'"
"A chance for hope: U.S. Supreme Court ends mandatory life without parole sentences," Pursuing Justice (Juvenile Law Center blog), 6/26/12
"Required life sentences for juveniles outlawed by Supreme Court," Moriah Balingit, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6/26/12
"Justices bar mandatory life terms for juveniles," Carrie Johnson, NPR's All Things Considered, 6/25/12
"U.S. Supreme Court ruling likely affects Easton teen's life sentence for murder," Nicole Radzievich, Allentown Morning Call, 6/25/12
"Sentenced to life as a juvenile, he hopes ruling means freedom," Dana DiFilipo, Philadelphia Daily News, 6/25/12
"Ruling may mean hope for lifers convicted as teens," Joseph Slobodzian, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/25/12
"Supreme Court strikes down mandatory life sentences for juveniles," Michael Doyle, McClatchy Newspapers, 6/25/12