The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that juveniles who commit crimes in which no one is killed may not be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.Five justices, in an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, agreed that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment forbids such sentences as a categorical matter.
The case, which attracted nationwide attention because of a trend toward increasingly strict punishment for juveniles who commit violent crime, could reverberate in Silicon Valley. Four defendants, including three teenage boys, are currently being tried as adults in Santa Clara County for an attack last Halloween on a pair of young trick-or-treaters. The attempted murder charges against them still could result in life sentences, but the Supreme Court ruling ensures the juvenile defendants will have a shot at parole if convicted.
“A state need not guarantee the offender eventual release,” Kennedy wrote, “but if it imposes the sentence of life, it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term.”
If there is one thing that embodies the American identity, it’s that of second chances. Glad to see the SJC apply that to minors convicted of serious offences. I never understood locking away a 16-year-old for their entire life.