The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday granted certiorari in five juvenile offender cases and simultaneously vacated and remanded [order, PDF] to state court, to be reviewed in light of last term’s Montgomery v. Louisiana decision, which held [JURIST report] that a landmark decision banning mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles should apply retroactively. The court reached that decision in Miller v. Alabama [JURIST report] in 2012. All five cases remanded arose out of homicide cases in Arizona where the defendants were under the age of 18 at the time of the crimes. Justice Sonia Sotomayor concurred in the decision, writing that Miler and Montgomery require a court to consider whether a juvenile’s crimes reflect “permanent incorrigibility” before sentencing him to life without parole. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented from the order, arguing that state courts already considered the defendant’s ages in light of the precedents.
The Supreme Court banned life without parole sentences for juveniles in 2012, but until April that outcome was being applied only prospectively in many states. The case involved Henry Montgomery, convicted in 1963 of murdering a deputy sheriff at the age of 17. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The decision reflects a growing consensus that children should, in some ways, be treated differently than adults, especially in regards to being sentenced for life. In May, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that juvenile convicted of first-degree murder may not be sentenced to life without parole. In April, a Louisiana man was released [JURIST report] from prison after serving 41 years of a life sentence.