Brief of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Mississippi Office of the State Public Defender, and Mississippi Public Defenders Association In Support of Petitioner.
Argument: The Supreme Court has held that life without parole is appropriate only for a “permanently incorrigible” juvenile offender. States like Mississippi that do not require a finding of permanent incorrigibility are not reliably implementing that command because offenders receive life-without-parole sentences even if they are capable of change. Mississippi’s approach also produces arbitrary sentencing outcomes, because a juvenile’s sentence depends on whether his sentencer independently comprehends Miller, not on whether he is actually permanently incorrigible. States that require a finding of permanent incorrigibility ensure that juvenile offenders only receive life-without-parole sentences when the sentence is proportionate and lawful. Sentencers can still impose life-without-parole sentences when an offender is actually permanently incorrigible.