The Madeleine Brand Show for March 19, 2012

The Supreme Court hears cases on life in prison for juvenile offenders

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The Supreme Court will hear two cases this week to determine whether sentencing juveniles to life in prison is unconstitutional.

This week the Supreme Court is hearing a case that may have far reaching influence on juveniles and how they are punished. The court will hear arguments in the cases of Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson, who were both sentenced to life in prison for separate murders when they were 14-years-old. The issue in both cases is whether a life sentence imposed on someone so young constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that executing juveniles is unconstitutional. Before that ruling, the United States and Somalia were the only two countries permitting the execution of teenagers. The court held that executing juveniles goes against "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society."

The American Psychological Association filed a brief with the court regarding Miller and Jackson's cases stating that "juveniles are still developing their character and identity" and that there is no reliable way to confirm that a juvenile will not change or reform with time.


Adam Cohen teaches at Yale law school and is the legal columnist for

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