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Justices rule out life sentences for juveniles who haven’t killed



Published: Tue, May 18, 2010 @ 12:04 a.m.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON

The Supreme Court took two cracks at one of the law’s thorniest questions Monday: When can you lock up a prisoner and throw away the key?

Not when it’s a teenager who hasn’t killed anyone, the justices said. But when it’s a “sexually dangerous” inmate, maybe so, even if he has completed his federal prison sentence.

By a 5-4 vote, the court said young people serving life prison terms must have “a meaningful opportunity to obtain release” if they haven’t killed their victims. The majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy extended the “children are different” rationale that drove his decision five years ago that outlawed the death penalty for killers under 18.

The court ruled in the case of Terrance Graham, who was implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17. Graham, now 23, is in prison in Florida, which holds 60 percent of juveniles who are locked up for life for crimes other than homicide.

“The state has denied him any chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a non-homicide crime that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion.

In a second case, the court voted 7-2 to uphold a federal law that allows for the indefinite imprisonment of inmates considered mentally ill and “sexually dangerous,” no matter that their sentences have been served.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan successfully argued the government’s case to the Supreme Court in January. Kagan has been nominated to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Comments

1Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

"By a 5-4 vote, the court said young people serving life prison terms must have “a meaningful opportunity to obtain release” if they haven’t killed their victims."

If you haven't succeeded they want to give you a chance to try again . Leaving dangerous inmates out on the streets is not in the best interest of the public .

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2Lifes2Short(3875 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

“The state has denied him any chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a non-homicide crime that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion."

16-17 he is old enough to know right from wrong. So he didn't kill no one, now with the education he received in the prison system from other inmates his robbery skills will be impressive and next time he might get a little trigger happy. Nice ruling to teenagers, they can rob but not kill no one and they'll be free in a few. .

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3TheCritic(23 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Finally, we have a Supreme Court that shows compassion. Throwing a kid in prision for the rest of his life without chance of parole is inhumane.

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4SkyKing310B(253 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Critic- Not so. Criminals should be made to suffer the same fate as the victims of their crimes, regardless of their ages.

As Lifes2short says - 16 & 17 year olds are old enough the know right from wrong.

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