Supreme Court Watch: Miller v. Alabama, Jackson v. Hobbs
Editor’s Note: Our Supreme Court Watch articles have thus far been written by the staff of Logarchism. Today’s article, though, is a contribution from Max aka Birdpilot. As always, we welcome your contributions.
Today, the Supreme Court hears arguments in the cases of Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs. The cases hinge on the basis of whether juveniles convicted of heinous crimes can be sentenced to life without parole. The Court has previously held in Graham v. Florida that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life without parole in cases involving non–homicide crimes. It has also previously held, in Roper v. Simmons that those committing capital offenses while under the age of 18 cannot be sentenced to death for those crimes. Both cases were decided on a 5–4 vote, with Justice Kennedy being the deciding factor. The decision of the Court in the Miller and Jackson cases should come by the end of the term in June.
The basic reasoning in Graham and Roper was that juveniles sufficiently lack maturity in reasoning and in their moral sense to render such sentences “cruel and unusual”, and thus a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Attorneys for the Appellants, through a concatenation of these decisions, are hoping to convince the Court to apply the same reasoning and confirm that youthful offenders, beneath a certain age, have not developed the judgement to warrant life-without-parole sentences, even in murder cases.
Evan Miller, along with his accomplice Colby Smith, broke into a mobile home belonging to 52-year-old Cole Cannon in July of 2003. They stole baseball cards and $350 in cash from Cannon before beating him unconscious with a baseball bat. They then set the mobile home on fire and left Cannon to die in the fire.
Kuntrell Jackson, along with two accomplices, attempted to rob a video store. One of the accomplices, Derrick Shields, had a sawed-off shotgun, which he used to kill the video clerk when told that there was no money in the till.
Miller and Jackson were both 14 when the crimes occurred. In neither case are the attorneys asking that the convictions be set aside, only that the usual terms for parole be considered, excluding the “without-parole” sentence.
Currently, only 18 states allow for life-without-parole sentences for youthful defendants. In ten of those states, only one or two people have received the sentence. A total of only 73 people are serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed as minors. In the past two decades, 3,632 youths were convicted of homicides committed while age 14 or under.
A few questions for all of you, then:
- Should people who commit murder at the age of 14 be permitted to receive life sentences without parole?
- If not, what should be the maximum permitted sentence?
- What is the youngest age at which such a sentence should be permitted, and why that age?
- How do you think the Supreme Court will decide?
- Supreme Court Takes On Life Without Parole for Teens Convicted of Murder(huffingtonpost.com)
- Court questions life without parole for juveniles(newsok.com)
- Justices mull whether life without parole sentence appropriate for underage killers(cnn.com)
- Court Questions Life Without Parole for Juveniles(abcnews.go.com)
- The Supreme Court’s Guide to Good Parenting(slate.com)
- Intriguing early report on SCOTUS arguments in today’s JLWOP cases(sentencing.typepad.com)
- Don’t put juveniles in jail for life(cnn.com)
- Lots of media coverage anticipating SCOTUS arguments on JLWOP(sentencing.typepad.com)
- Video preview of Jackson and Miller Eighth Amendment cases (sentencing.typepad.com)
- Negative Action
- Supreme Court Watch: Salinas v. Texas
- Supreme Court Watch: Maryland v. King
- Supreme Court Watch: McQuiggin v. Perkins
- Supreme Court Watch: Millbrook v. United States
- Supreme Court Watch: Fisher v. University of Texas
- Illegal ≠ Criminal
- The Hamdan’s Tale
- Unpacking the Court
- Supreme Court Watch: March Decisions