Story at a glance
- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision Thursday that the sentence of life in prison without parole given to a man convicted of murder when he was 15 is constitutional.
- Brett Jones, a Mississippi man who was convicted of murdering his grandfather when he was 15, argued that the sentence violated his Eighth Amendment right.
- Jones was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision Thursday that the sentence of life in prison without parole given to a man convicted of murder when he was 15 is constitutional.
Brett Jones, a Mississippi man who was convicted of murdering his grandfather, argued that the sentence violated his Eighth Amendment right protecting him from cruel and unusual punishment, Reuters reported.
Currently, 29 states permit life without parole sentencing, and in 2020, 1,465 people were serving those sentences, according to the Sentencing Project. Washington, D.C and 25 states have banned life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders.
The six conservative justices on the court represented the majority, leaving the three liberal judges to dissent.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh authored the majority ruling, which ended a string of recent decisions that put limits on life sentences without parole for juveniles. Kavanaugh wrote that the onus is on the states to “make those broad and moral policy judgements.”
"Jones's argument that the sentencer must make a finding of permanent incorrigibility is inconsistent with the court's precedents," Kavanaugh said.
Yet Kavanaugh added that the state is required to take the offender’s age into consideration.
Justice Sonia Sotomayer wrote that “the court is fooling no one,” saying judges can now deliver life sentences without proving the offender is incapable of reform. Sotomayer added that 15 state courts require a finding of incorrigibility due to previous court rulings.
"The question is whether the state, at some point, must consider whether a juvenile offender has demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation sufficient to merit a chance at life beyond the prison in which he has grown up. For most, the answer is yes," Sotomayor wrote.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles qualified as cruel and unusual punishment. The court had already ruled in 2005 in Roper v. Simmons that juveniles could not be executed.
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