Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Roberts on the right track with JLWP

On November 9, 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether juvenile life without parole (JLWP) for non-homicide offenses violates the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment.
Robert Barnes' article in today's Washington Post provides an interesting look into the direction of the court. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/6711989.html"> Barnes quoted Bryan Gowdy the attorney for Terrance Graham, "Gowdy said the court should abolish LWOP for any non-homicide crime committed by someone younger than 18. He said he thinks it is constitutional to impose such a sentence on a juvenile who killed."
Under this scenario, a 17-year old offender who intends to kill on multiple occasions, but due to poor aim or resilient victims, fails to kill would be spared life without parole. However, a 14-year old, who during is first violent offense kills a store owner in a botched robbery, could be sentenced to LWOP.
That doesn't make good sense or good law.
Earlier this year I wrote about JLWP in the Youngstown Vindicator, "Sentences, especially for juveniles sentenced as adults, should be specifically tailored for each individual offender." (http://www.vindy.com/news/2008/mar/09/handle-juvenile-lifers-cautiously/)
Barnes further wrote, "Rather than having rigid rules based on age, (Chief Justice Roberts) said it would be better to require judges to consider the defendant's age when imposing harsh sentences, and then having courts review whether they are disproportionate to the crime."
Robert's suggestion would promote fairness and proportionality. Something that a "bright line" standard would not provide.

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