The United States Supreme Court today heard arguments in the cases of Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama on the issue of whether it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the 8th Amendment, to sentence a youthful offender to life without the possibility of parole. The decision result in a change to Massachusetts law, which currently allows for juvenile life sentences without parole.
By way of background, the court has previously ruled against similar punishments for youth and adult offenders in the past. In 2005, the Court prohibited the imposition of the death penalty for any minor convicted of murder in the case of Roper v. Simmons. Then, in 2010, in the case of Graham v. Florida, the Supreme Court prohibited the imposition of a life without the possibility of parole sentence for a minor who committed any crime other than murder.
In both of those cases, the Supreme Court ruled that, due to the immaturity of youthful judgment and moral sense, those punishments were unconstitutional and therefore a form of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment. With those cases as a backdrop, attorneys are urging the court to rule that a sentence of life without parole for the crime of murder is also too severe and unconstitutional.