Supreme Court Hears Cases of 14-Year-Olds Given Life Imprisonment without Parole

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Kuntrell Jackson, then
The U.S. Supreme Court this week heard two cases that will decide whether juveniles as young as 14 years of age should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. They are among about 2,200 Americans serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed when they were 17 years old or younger.
In one case out of Arkansas, Kuntrell Jackson was convicted of murder and given a mandatory life sentence for participating in a robbery during which a store clerk was shot to death. Jackson, who had just turned 14, did not pull the trigger.
The other case, out of Alabama, involved more heinous acts by the convicted 14-year-old. In 2003, Evan Miller and a friend robbed and beat an older neighbor in his home, using both their hands and a baseball bat. Then, in an effort to hide their crime, the two set fire to the victim’s trailer, which killed him.
On Tuesday, some of the Supreme Court justices hearing the arguments seemed most troubled by the fact that some states have mandatory sentences and require juveniles to be tried as adults. In 2005, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to abolish the death penalty for juvenile murderers and in 2010, by the same vote, eliminated life imprisonment without parole for juveniles convicted of crimes other than murder.
The Sentencing Project surveyed 1,547 Americans sentenced to life in prison without parole for crimes committed when they were minors. The survey found a large racial disparity in such cases. Black youth who killed a white person accounted for 23.2% of juvenile murder arrests, but 43.4 % of those given life without parole. White juveniles who killed black people made up 6.4% of murder arrests of minors, but only 3.6% of those sentenced to life imprisonment.
- David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Key Juvenile Cases on Tuesday (by John Kelly and Ryan Schill, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)
The Lives of Juvenile Lifers: Findings from a National Survey (by Ashley Nellis, Sentencing Project) (pdf)

Supreme Court Bans Life in Prison for Juvenile Non-Murderers (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov) 


Leave a comment