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October 3, 2005

More strong NY Times work on lifers

Though surely overshadowed by the Miers' nomination (discussed here and here), reporter Adam Liptak has another great front-page article in the New York Times on the subject of life sentences.  On the heels of yesterday's article discussing the number and nature of life sentences nationwide, today's article examines life sentences given to offenders for crimes comitted as juveniles.  And, once again, I first noticed the new and interesting data reported in the article:

About 9,700 American prisoners are serving life sentences for crimes they committed before they could vote, serve on a jury or gamble in a casino — in short, before they turned 18. More than a fifth have no chance for parole....

[A] report to be issued on Oct. 12 by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International found juveniles serving [life without parole] in only three other [counties].  Israel has seven, South Africa has four and Tanzania has one.  By contrast, the report counted some 2,200 people in the United States serving life without parole for crimes they committed before turning 18.  More than 350 of them were 15 or younger, according to the report.

Juvenile lifers are overwhelmingly male and mostly black. Ninety-five percent of those admitted in 2001 were male and 55 percent were black....  While 40 percent of adults sent away for life between 1988 and 2001 committed crimes other than murder, like drug offenses, rape and armed robbery, the Times analysis found, only 16 percent of juvenile lifers were sentenced for anything other than murder.

The article also includes a number of compelling personal stories, and this companion piece discusses a hasty plea entered by a juvenile which lead to a life sentence.  The article also explores a question I raised in this post immediatley after Roper: if the Constitution now demands a categorical bar on the death penalty for crimes committed before 18 because of some offenders' "immaturity" and "vulnerability" and the general "mitigating force of youth," shouldn't these same realities and concerns come to bear in at least some non-capital sentencing cases?

October 3, 2005 at 04:25 PM | Permalink

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