By a 5-to-4 vote, the Supreme Court today said the Constitution's Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment bars life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of crimes. The court majority, in an opinion by Justice Elena Kagan, said that, "By requiring that all children convicted of homicide receive lifetime incarceration without possibility of parole, regardless of their age and age-related characteristics and the nature of their crimes, the mandatory sentencing schemes before us violate [the] principle of proportionality, and so the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment." The opinion reversed rulings of Arkansas and Alabama courts that upheld life without parole sentences for juveniles in those states.
In a dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts said, "Perhaps science and policy suggest society should show greater mercy to young killers, giving them a greater chance to reform themselves at the risk that they will kill again. [ ] But that is not our decision to make. Neither the text of the Constitution nor our precedent prohibits legislatures from requiring that juvenile murderers be sentenced to life without parole."'


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