« The 10 biggest cases to watch for sentencing fans in the new SCOTUS term | Main | "The Prisoners’ (Plea Bargain) Dilemma" »

October 5, 2009

SCOTUS opening day discussion of juve LWOP cases

Though they are not scheduled to be argued until next month, the official start of the new Supreme Court Term today prompts some additional major media attention and commentary about Graham and Sullivan, the two juve LWOP cases on the docket.  The Wall Street Journal has this new piece, headlined "Life in Prison for Minors -- Cruel and Unusual?", which rightly notes that Justice Kennedy is likely again to be a key vote in this cases:

Since the 1970s, the court has been narrowing the scope of the death penalty to those people considered most reprehensible.  When it comes to prison terms, however, the court rarely has intervened.  Justice Anthony Kennedy often has cast the deciding vote, siding with liberal justices to limit the death penalty, but joining conservatives to uphold severe prison terms.

The court ordered separate arguments in the Sullivan and Graham cases, suggesting it could be inclined to distinguish the two based on their ages.  "The difference between 13 and 16 matters," says Frank Colucci, a professor at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Ind., and author of "Justice Kennedy's Jurisprudence," published in September.  Prof. Colucci predicted Justice Kennedy will write an opinion in this case that will stress "the capacity of juveniles to be morally responsible for their crimes."

The Los Angeles Times has this commentaryby lawprof Bernard Harcourt, which is headlined "Sending children to prison for life: Our laws make allowances for juveniles' immaturity; judges should too." Here is a snippet:

The tough-on-crime rhetoric of "lock 'em up and throw away the key" is entirely inappropriate in the case of children. Children's brains, bodies and personalities are still in the process of growing and changing.  And many experts in neuroscience and psychology believe that the same changeability that makes young people vulnerable to negative influences and peer pressure also makes them good candidates for reform and rehabilitation.

In all other areas, we recognize their vulnerabilities.  Because of the relative immaturity and irresponsibility of minors, every state in the nation restricts them from voting, serving on juries, purchasing alcohol or marrying without parental consent.  States further restrict young adolescents from activities that require more mature judgment, such as driving and consenting to sexual activity. In fact, the state of Florida, where Sullivan and Graham are incarcerated for life, does not even permit adolescents to get their ears pierced without parental consent.

Some recent posts on juve LWOP and the Graham and Sullivan cases:

October 5, 2009 at 08:26 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference SCOTUS opening day discussion of juve LWOP cases:


Adulthood at 18 is a legal fiction, as much law is. People from 14 to 18 are inexperienced adults. They are inexperienced because the feminist lawyer has forced schools and families to infantalize them. 100 year ago, they would have finished an apprenticeship, and would be preparing to get married. This keeps capable workers off the market to be babysat in high school.

There is no age where criminals mature. You have 60 year old criminals molesting kids left alone with them.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 5, 2009 4:19:32 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB