May 17, 2010 11:41 AM by Melissa Canone
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has ruled that teenagers may
not be locked up for life without chance of parole if they haven't
By a 5-4 vote Monday, the court says the Constitution requires
that young people serving life sentences must at least be
considered for release.
The court ruled in the case of Terrance Graham, who was
implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17. Graham, now
22, is in prison in Florida, which holds more than 70 percent of
juvenile defendants locked up for life for crimes other than
"The state has denied him any chance to later demonstrate that
he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a nonhomicide crime
that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law,"
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion. "This the
Eighth Amendment does not permit."
Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with Kennedy and the court's
four liberal justices about Graham. But Roberts said he does not
believe the ruling should extend to all young offenders who are
locked up for crimes other than murder; he was a "no" vote on the
Life sentences with no chance of parole are rare and harsh for
juveniles tried as adults and convicted of crimes less serious than
killing, although roughly three dozen states allow for the
possibility of such prison terms. Just over 100 prison inmates in
the United States are serving those terms, according to data
compiled by opponents of the sentences.
Those inmates are in Florida and seven other states -
California, Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska and
South Carolina - according to a Florida State University study.
More than 2,000 other juveniles are serving life without parole for
killing someone. Their sentences are not affected by Monday's
Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas
dissented from Monday's ruling.
Thomas criticized the majority for imposing "its own sense of
morality and retributive justice" on state lawmakers and voters
who chose to give state judges the option of life-without-parole