Supreme Court will hear case involving life sentences without parole for juveniles

By Robert Barnes

December 12, 2014

The Supreme Court said Friday that it will decide whether hundreds of juvenile offenders sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole deserve a chance to be resentenced.

The court announced it will consider the case of a Louisiana man who said the court’s 2012 decision banning mandatory life sentences for juveniles must be applied retroactively.

The 5-to-4 ruling in Miller v. Alabama said that state laws mandating life in prison without the possibility of parole for those younger than 18 offend the Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. That decision was part of a trend at the court of treating even the worst juvenile offenders differently from adults.

“Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features — among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the 2012 decision. “It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds him — and from which he cannot usually extricate himself — no matter how brutal or dysfunctional.”

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