By Jesse J. Holland
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that it is unconstitutional for states to require juveniles convicted of murder to be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
The 5-4 decision is in line with others the court has made, including ruling out the death penalty for juveniles and life without parole for young people whose crimes did not involve killing. Monday’s decision left open the possibility that judges could sentence juveniles to life without parole in individual cases of murder, but said state laws cannot automatically impose such a sentence.
We “hold that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishment,'” said Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the opinion for the majority.
She was joined in that opinion by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.
“Neither the text of the Constitution or our precedent prohibits legislatures from requiring that juvenile murderers be sentenced to life without parole,” Roberts said.
The decision came in the robbery and murder cases of Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson, who were 14 when they were convicted.
Miller was convicted of killing a man in Alabama. Jackson was convicted of being an accomplice in an Arkansas robbery that ended in someone else committing murder.