Supreme Court Axes Life Terms for Juveniles

Kids in nonhomicide crimes must at least get chance at parole
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Suggested by Disillusioned
Posted May 17, 2010 11:25 AM CDT
Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
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(Newser) – The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today that teens may not be locked up for life without chance of parole if they have not killed anyone, holding that the Constitution requires that young people serving life sentences must at least be considered for release. The court ruled in the case of Terrance Graham, who was implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17. Graham, now 22, is in prison in Florida, which holds more than 70% of juvenile defendants locked up for life for crimes other than homicide.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the majority opinion, wrote that the high court ruling does not ensure anyone's release. "What the state must do, however, is give defendants like Graham some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation," he wrote. Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas dissented. More than 2,000 juveniles are serving life without parole for murder. Their sentences are not affected by today's decision.

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