U.S. Supreme Court
ABA Amicus Brief Says Life Without Parole Is Unconstitutional in Juvenile Murder Cases
Posted Jan 23, 2012 6:00 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
The ABA has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court that argues a sentence of life without parole for juveniles convicted of murder is cruel and unusual punishment.
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the issue in two cases involving juveniles convicted of slayings committed when they were 14 years old. The ABA brief (PDF) filed last week asks the court to hold that life without parole is unconstitutional as applied to any juvenile offender under the age of 18 who is convicted of homicide.
“The ABA is not asserting that all juveniles should be entitled to parole,” the brief states, “but only that they should not be denied the opportunity to be considered for parole before they die in prison.”
The ABA asks the court to extend the 2010 decision in Graham v. Florida, which barred sentences of life without parole for juveniles who have not been charged with murder. No matter what the crime, juveniles have less capacity than adults—in moral judgment, self-restraint and the ability to resist the influence of others, the brief says. As a result, juveniles should be treated differently by the justice system.
The cases are Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs. A press release has more information.