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New Jersey top court establishes more factors for juvenile long-term sentencing
New Jersey top court establishes more factors for juvenile long-term sentencing

The New Jersey Supreme Court [official website] on Wednesday unanimously ruled [opinion, PDF] that factors such as age, family environment and peer pressure must be considered when dealing with juveniles who face possible long-term sentences. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote the opinion, which also suggested a change in law by the state legislature to reflect the ruling. The decision came from two defendants who committed separate crimes when they were 17 and would not get the opportunity of parole until the ages of 72 and 85 [NJ report]. Rabner based the decision on the US Supreme Court [official website] ruling in Miller v. Alabama [JURIST report], which created a number of factors, similar to the ones stated here, that must be considered before a juvenile can be sentenced to life without parole. Alexander Shalom [official profile] of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for New Jersey [advocacy website] represented one defendant and praised the ruling as recognizing the rights of juveniles beyond simply life without parole sentences.

The Supreme Court banned life without parole sentences for juveniles in 2012, but until a year ago that outcome was being applied only prospectively in many states. Last January the Supreme Court in Montgomery v. Louisiana [JURIST report] decided to apply the Miller ruling retroactively. In November the Supreme Court granted certiorari in five juvenile offender cases and simultaneously vacated and remanded [JURIST report] them to state court, to be reviewed in light of Montgomery. In May the Iowa Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that a juvenile convicted of first-degree murder may not be sentenced to life without parole.