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June 25, 2012

SCOTUS rules 5-4 in favor of juve offenders in Jackson and Miller

Reporting here on SCOTUSblog reporting on what its reporter Lyle Denniston is reporting from the Supreme Court this morning:

The Court [per Justice Kagan] holds that the Eighth Amendment forbids a [mandatory] scheme of life in prison without possibility of parole for juveniles. The vote is five to four [with lots of Justices writing dissents]. The decisions of Ark. S. Ct. and Alabama Ct. of Crim. Appeals are reversed.

The full opinion in Miller is now available at this link, and here is the detailed breakdown of all the opinions:

KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined. BREYER, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which SOTOMAYOR, J., joined. ROBERTS, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined.

June 25, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

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Comments

The Supreme Court, with its usurpation, decides that the families of juvenile murder victims will now be sentenced to a life of uncertainty. What is it about Democrats and helping out murderers? I hope Obama is proud of his two Justices.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 25, 2012 10:28:56 AM

As I read the syllabus at least I don't think this is going to turn out to be much of a defense win. They ruled that mandatory LWOP is unconstitutional for juvenile offenders, they specifically did not rule that juvenile offenders (even ones, as here, that are fourteen years old) is unconsitutional on a case by case basis. They did not even rule that a LWOP sentence for either of these two offenders in particular is unconstitutional. Perhaps the opinion for the court will give more guideance on that question but I also see it as something that the lower courts are going to go happily on their way doing whatever it is they would do anyway.

And I think Miller in particular is going to have a hard time convincing anyone that he should get a chance, taking a baseball to someone and beating them to death for kicks shows such an utter disregard for life that I can easily see him losing a sentencing phase trial on remand. Jackson will likely have a somewhat easier time of it, being caught up under the felony murder rule is a far different thing from personally landing blows during a lethal attack.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jun 25, 2012 10:36:26 AM

This case is a limited win for juveniles, but the Eighth Amendment is a one-way ratchet. At some point, juvie LWOP will be declared categorically unconstitutional, even when it is not mandatory, as it was in these cases. Today's majority did not foreclose that possibility. It merely ruled on the question before it.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jun 25, 2012 10:55:23 AM

While I understand federalist's problems with the seemingly ever-favorable-to-the-young-killer tenor of this and other cases in which Kennedy casts the deciding vote, I agree with Soronel that, as a practical matter, this case creates minor heartburn at most for those of us not inclined to adopt Kennedy's indulgence.

Although the law can no longer feature automatic LWOP for juveniles, I'm perfectly content to leave it to juries to figure things out case-by-case. There may be particularly unusual cases in which juries will want to give these characters a break, but, based on my experience, I think they'll be few and far between.

The defense bar was looking to wipe juvenile LWOP off the books and couldn't get a single vote for that result.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 25, 2012 11:01:51 AM

"I'm perfectly content to leave it to juries to figure things out case-by-case. There may be particularly unusual cases in which juries will want to give these characters a break, but, based on my experience, I think they'll be few and far between."

I'd be too, if that's what the legislature provided, but it didn't, and there will be some who get out. Not even a sorry about that to the victims' families.


Posted by: federalist | Jun 25, 2012 11:17:05 AM

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