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September 9, 2013

"Talking About Cruelty: The Eighth Amendment and Juvenile Offenders after Miller v. Alabama"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper by Samuel Pillsbury now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

After setting out the issues and approach of the U.S. Supreme Court majority in Miller v. Alabama, the article develops cruelty as a constitutional norm. Initially cruelty as a norm for Enlightenment thinkers in the late 18th century and in the creation of the American penitentiary in the early nineteenth century is considered. Then the article examines cruelty as a modern norm that condemns both sadism and indifference towards the serious suffering of others. This norm supports the Miller conclusion that mandatory life without chance of parole sentences for certain juvenile offenders are cruel, because such sentences mandate a form of culpable indifference to individual value.

The article then describes how a cruelty norm may guide courts in resolving the constitutionality of a life without chance of parole sentence for juvenile by a judge who had discretion to order a lesser sentence. The cruelty norm described would find unconstitutional a life sentence for a juvenile unless a subsequent opportunity was provided for the offender to seek release based on personal reform. Otherwise, a life sentence would disregard the basic value of the offender in the person that he or she might become.

September 9, 2013 at 07:47 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"cruelty as a modern norm that condemns both sadism and indifference towards the serious suffering of others"
"The cruelty norm described would find unconstitutional a life sentence for a juvenile"
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Fine, for by this standard, the death penalty by electrocution, firing squad, hanging, and intravenously, would yet be constitutional. Go fish.

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 10, 2013 1:29:55 PM

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