Supreme Court Ruling – Juveniles Facing Life Without Parole

A recent ruling in the Supreme Court has led the nation to come to the conclusion that sentencing a person eighteen years of age or less to life in prison without parole is in violation of the eighth amendment, and therefore unconstitutional. The incarceration of a teenager for the rest of his or her life seems to be a cruel and unusual punishment for someone so young, which is exactly what the eighth amendment prohibits.

Senate Bill 635 allows judges discretion when sentencing juvenile offenders in capital cases, and it gives the judge the authority to decide whether it is fit for a defendant to be allowed parole. One of the justices wrote for the Supreme Court with a decision stating that the court systems must begin to “take into account how children are different”. Now that a judge is not strictly bound by statutes and guidelines, the differences of a child can be accounted for while their sentence is being determined.

But prior to hearing the verdict of their case, there must first be a sentencing hearing held by the judge to establish all of the mitigating factors surrounding the adolescent.

Some of the mitigating factors associated with the defendant and his or her character might include: intellectual capacity, immaturity, age at the time of the offense, the ability to understand the consequences of their actions, mental health, prior record, the probability of the defendant benefiting from rehabilitation in confinement, and the amount of pressure being forced upon the defendant by peers or family. After hearing all of the mitigating factors, the judge then weighs them against the seriousness of the offense and the nature of the crime committed. If the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating then the judge can allow the juvenile parole when determining his or her sentence. If the seriousness and nature of the crime substantially outweigh the mitigating factors then the judge does not have to grant the defendant the privilege of parole.

Throughout the trial that works to establish a fair sentence for the juvenile, the houston dwi attorneys and prosecution both have their arguments heard. Evidence from previous phases of the trial are not necessary, but new evidence relevant to sentencing matters is permitted. During this sentencing trial, the defense has the opportunity to have the final argument.

This bill not only affects the approximately 100 teenagers currently awaiting their sentence, but also anyone who was under the age of eighteen when they committed a felony first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole. There are 88 current inmates in North Carolina Prison facilities that will be given the chance to have their own re-sentencing trial and another chance at parole.

Senate Bill 635 is going to have an affect on many people across the state that do not have the mental capabilities that others have, and give them the chance to not spend their entire lives in a prison. Anyone that is affected by this bill will have the opportunity to be allowed parole after 25 years in prison.