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April 20, 2009

CNN covers Sullivan case as SCOTUS considers juve LWOP

CNN has this new piece on a notable sentencing appeal, headlined " Sentenced as teen, convicted rapist appeals to highest court." The article is mostly focused on the pending cert petition from Joe Sullivan, whose case I have blogged here and here. Here are snippets:

At 33, Joe Sullivan is serving a life term without the possibility of parole in a Florida prison while confined to a wheelchair.

The crime for which he was convicted was brutal: burglary and the rape of a 72-year-old woman in Pensacola. The man's lawyers say the punishment was equally harsh, particularly for someone with Sullivan's circumstances. He was 13 at the time, and is one of only two people his age in the world, say his supporters, tried as an adult and sentenced to "die in prison" for a crime that wasn't a homicide.

Now the Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether that sentence was cruel and unusual punishment for someone who was barely a teenager at the time of his crime....

Outside a death-penalty context, the high court has offered little recent guidance on how to treat the youngest of underage criminal defendants. The appellate record for rapists under age 15 is almost nonexistent, say legal experts consulted by CNN....

A study by the Equal Justice Institute found eight prisoners serving life terms for crimes committed at 13, all in the United States. Besides Sullivan, Florida inmate Ian Manuel is in a similar situation. He was 13 when convicted of attempted murder and robbery in 1990 and will not get out of prison.

The Justice Department reports no 13-year-old has been given life without parole for crime that wasn't a homicide in a decade. And while about a thousand people every year under 15 are arrested for rape, none have been given life without parole since Sullivan.

Only a handful of states -- including Alaska, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Oregon -- prohibit sentencing minors to life without a chance for parole, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Equal Justice Institute says 19 states have laws allowing the possibility of life without parole for those under age 14.

The high court in April 2008 refused to hear the case of a South Carolina boy who was 12 when he murdered his grandparents and was given a 30-year sentence, the maximum allowed under state law. Tried as an adult, Christopher Pittman's lawyers had argued the sentence was excessive, and that heavy doses of antidepressants the boy was taking at the time sent his mind spinning out off control.

While disappointed, Pittman's attorney Michelle Deitch speculated the justices may "have recognized the growing national trend against sentencing young children to harsh mandatory terms in prison, and wants to give state legislatures the opportunity to correct this problem before it rules again on the issue."

Some related posts on juve LWOP and the Sullivan case:

April 20, 2009 at 10:10 PM | Permalink


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I suggested that legal adulthood merge with the biological landmark of adulthood, the ability to reproduce, at age 14. I have done that to 14 year olds who did not like being told what to do, to the extreme.

There is unanimous rejection of that idea, even by 14 year old delinquents. I still like it. Not only is it biologically logical, it was the way of the world until 100 years ago.

Outside of that biological landmark, maturity increases to the end of life, even in criminals who improve in their 50's. Successful treatments of criminality have a bunch of old people as subjects.

Again, the above entry describes pretextual immunization of criminality by rent seeking lawyers. They want to increase crime to increase lawyer employment. The 100's of victims of each criminal every year, kept alive by the criminal lover lawyer, are entirely on their own. The sole remedy for them is to bring street justice to the criminal cult hierarchy. See how they like it. In that case, the death penalty would be at the scene. The police would come blasting, and there would never be an excessive force lawsuit.

There is no electoral alternative, nor any difference by political affiliation. The rent trumps all ideology.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 21, 2009 7:01:46 AM

For the curious and/or folks interested in comments actually related to the original post: The Court was supposed to rule on the Sullivan cert petition Monday (4/20) after it was conferenced last Friday (4/17), but instead the Court set it to be conferenced again this Friday (4/24). Who knows what that means, but presumably there will be a decision next Monday (4/27).

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