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Defense Bar Lauds Supreme Court For Abolishing ‘Life Without Parole’ for Children and Teens
By Jack King, Ivan J. Dominguez
NACDL News columns.
The Constitution prohibits imposition of a sentence of life without parole on a juvenile offender who did not commit a homicide, the U.S. Supreme Court decided on May 17, 2010. NACDL joined with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc., and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice as amici curiae urging the Court to overturn the sentences of Florida inmates Terrance Jamar Graham and Joe Harris Sullivan, both of whom committed their crimes before their 18th birthdays. The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments such as sentences that are grossly disproportionate to the defendant’s crime, or imposition of the death penalty on juveniles and mentally retarded defendants.
The Court noted the special difficulties juveniles and their counsel face in court when children are tried as adults. “The features that distinguish juveniles from adults also put them at a significant disadvantage in criminal proceedings,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majo
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