The Supreme Court yesterday handed down a 5-4 decision that minors can’t be sentenced to life without parole if they haven’t killed anyone:
The Supreme Court has ruled that teenagers may not be locked up for life without chance of parole if they haven’t killed anyone.
By a 5-4 vote Monday, the court says the Constitution requires that young people serving life sentences must at least be considered for release.
The court ruled in the case of Terrance Graham, who was implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17. Graham, now 22, is in prison in Florida, which holds more than 70 percent of juvenile defendants locked up for life for crimes other than homicide.
The majority opinion was written by Justice Kennedy. In a concurring opinion, Justice Stevens (joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor) was rude enough to single out one of their colleagues for ridicule (pdf):
While Justice Thomas would apparently not rule out a death sentence for a $50 theft by a 7-year-old, … the Court wisely rejects his static approach to the law. Standards of decency have evolved since 1980. They will never stop doing so.”