Court Strikes Automatic Life Sentences

In a 5-4 decision on Monday the Supreme Court struck down automatic life sentences without possibility of parole for juveniles. Mandatory life sentences for persons under the age of 18 constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” in the opinion of the court, Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion. Judges could still sentence juvenile convicts to life sentences without parole on an individual basis, but the ruling prohibits state laws that would make such a punishment automatic in murder trials. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito dissented, along with Chief Justice John Roberts.