Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Mississippi continues to sentence juveniles to life without parole

Despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that life without parole should be “rare” for juveniles, Mississippi continues to sentence two-thirds of these teens to die in prison, according to the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.

Since that 2012 decision, eight of a dozen Mississippi juveniles convicted of capital murder have received life-without-parole sentences. All but one are Black.

“We continue to devalue Black lives,” said Mississippi Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson. “The courts say this sentence should be seldomly used, but we’re dead set on the practice of harsh punishment that began decades ago. Elected judges tend to be hell-bent on ruining people’s lives rather than offering pathways to redemption and rehabilitation.”

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that a life-without-parole sentence should not be mandatory for juveniles. Only “permanently incorrigible” juveniles should face such punishment, justices said. Four years later, the high court made that ruling retroactive.

On Nov. 3, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether Brett Jones, who had just turned 15 when he stabbed his grandfather to death in Mississippi, was wrongly sentenced – then resentenced after the Miller ruling — to life without parole.

Jones’ attorney, David Shapiro, told justices that many states make findings of incorrigibility before delivering such a sentence and that Mississippi should, too.

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