Court Battles

Supreme Court to weigh limits to juvenile life sentences

Greg Nash

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it would take up a Mississippi case that looks at the constitutional limits of sentencing juvenile offenders to life in prison without parole.

At issue is whether handing down these sentences absent a finding that the defendant is incapable of rehabilitation violates the Constitution.

Defendant Brett Jones received a life sentence without parole for murdering his grandfather with a kitchen knife during a domestic dispute. Jones, who was then 15, claimed to have acted in self-defense.

Mississippi is among four states that allow juveniles to receive life without parole sentences without a finding that the defendant is incapable of rehabilitation, or what the law calls “permanent incorrigibility.”

Six states say that, absent this determination, sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole violates the Eighth Amendment’s bar against cruel and unusual punishment.

In their petition to the Supreme Court, Jones’s attorneys urged the justices to take the case in part to resolve the split among states.

The case, Jones v. Mississippi, was added to this term’s docket following the dismissal of one that looked at the life-without-parole sentence of juvenile Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the D.C. snipers.


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