Supreme Court hands down ruling on life sentences for minors

The U.S. Supreme Court has once again issued a decision that divided justices along ideological lines.

As Fox News reported, the nation’s highest court handed down a ruling that will make it easier to sentence minors convicted of murder to life in prison without parole.

Background on the case

The decision came after justices considered Jones v. Mississippi. Defendant Brett Jones was just 15 when he was accused and later convicted of fatally stabbing his grandfather during a dispute about his girlfriend.

After his conviction, Jones received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Now 31, his challenge of that sentence had advanced to the Supreme Court, where it was shot down with a 6–3 vote.

At the heart of the case, Jones contended that a minor should not be sentenced to life without parole unless he or she is deemed “permanently incorrigible,” arguing that he does not meet that description.

Liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer were sympathetic, issuing a dissenting opinion alongside the majority decision written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The court’s conservative majority determined that a sentencing judge does not need to find that a minor is incapable of rehabilitation to remand him or her to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Details from the decision

Kavanaugh wrote that the “argument that the sentencer must make a finding of permanent incorrigibility is inconsistent with the court’s precedents.”

Instead, he said that a “discretionary sentencing system” imposed by individual states “is both constitutionally necessary and constitutionally sufficient.”

Sotomayor penned the dissenting opinion in the case, arguing that the majority overruled precedent and that it is hard to determine whether the ruling is “founded in law rather than in the proclivities of individuals.”

She went on to contend that many juvenile offenders, including Jones, are merely seeking the chance “to show a parole board all they have done to rehabilitate themselves and to ask for a second chance.”

In his own statement, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas called out his liberal colleagues for their perceived hypocrisy, writing:

When addressing juvenile murderers, this Court has stated that “children are different” and that courts must consider “a child’s lesser culpability.”

And yet, when assessing the Court-created right of an individual of the same age to seek an abortion, Members of this Court take pains to emphasize a “young woman’s” right to choose.

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