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Supreme Court Justices Question Florida’s Death Penalty System

October 13, 2015
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could decide whether a 2012 ruling barring mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders can be applied retroactively, but the arguments "devolved into a tangled discussion on a jurisdictional issue that may derail a ruling in the case," the New York Times reports.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for a case on Tuesday, Montgomery v. Louisiana, which could decide whether their 2012 decision barring mandatory life-without-parole sentences for youth must be applied retroactively. However, most of Tuesday’s discussion focused on whether the Court has the authority to decide the case at all.

Approximately 2,500 individuals are serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for crimes committed as before age 18. Many of them received those sentences automatically, without individualized consideration of their youth and other factors.

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that automatic life-without-parole sentences for youth violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The New York Times reports:

The decision followed two others concerning harsh penalties imposed on juvenile offenders. In 2005 in Roper v. Simmons, the court eliminated the juvenile death penalty. In 2010 in Graham v. Florida, the court ruled that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole was also unconstitutional, but only for crimes that did not involve killings.

According to The Sentencing Project, a Washington research group that favors more liberal sentencing policies, 14 state Supreme Courts have ruled that the Miller decision applies retroactively while seven have said the opposite. Six states have passed juvenile sentencing legislation that applied retroactivity.

Read the rest at the New York Times.

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