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March 15, 2010

"More States Rethinking Life Sentences for Teens"

The title of this post is the headline of this new piece in The National Law Journal.  Here is how it gets started:

Their lawyers have long urged juries to give juvenile defendants a second chance. Now a growing number of states are rethinking the wisdom of sentencing teenagers to life in prison. Two states have recently passed -- and at least 11 states are considering -- legislation that would end life sentences for those under 18 years old or, more generally, restrict charging juveniles as adults.

The U.S. Supreme Court will also have something to say on the issue. In two Florida cases argued in November, the high court is considering whether a life sentence without parole for juveniles who have committed crimes other than murder violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

But state lawmakers are not waiting to hear the justices' opinion. Although efforts to abolish juvenile-lifer laws are nothing new, the legislators' willingness to side with criminal defense lawyers against prosecutors is a change. And a key reason appears to be new scientific evidence that adolescents are simply not capable of weighing their actions like adults.

March 15, 2010 at 10:27 PM | Permalink

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