Monday, May 17, 2010

For once, Texas Lege ahead of SCOTUS curve: Juvie LWOP abolished

Several people have forwarded me stories about the US Supreme Court banning life without parole sentences for juveniles in non-murder cases. I might have more to add except that Texas already eliminated juvie LWOP last year in legislation carried by state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa. Today's news confirms the wisdom of Chuy's legislation, which succeeded thanks to support from some unlikely allies.


Anonymous said...

Oatmeal, as usual, you have exaggerated. Texas eliminated life without parole for capital murder by a juvenile. The new SCOTUS case does not prohibit LWOP in such a circumstance, only for nonhomicide cases. Texas could have left that law in place. Texas does not have LWOP for nonhomicide cases.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Texas could have left that law in place."

They could have, but why would they? Even John Bradley agreed LWOP for juveniles is over the top, even for capital murder. They made them parole eligible after 40 years.

I did edit the post to clarify what SCOTUS did. I simply didn't read the SCOTUS case and only posted a brief comment in reaction to several emails, imagining that indicated it was something about which readers might have varied opinions. I'm focused on other things this morning.

Finally, I thought we had this conversation: Only carpetbaggers would confuse grits for oatmeal. Most people outgrow anonymous name calling by about age 14 - they either grow some balls or find more constructive ways to spend their time.

Anonymous said...

Anon, a reading of the reasoning may indicate that LWOP for murder cases may be unconstitutional as well. This ruling does not preclude such a conclusion.

The Court pointed out two factors that made LWOP unconstitutional for non-homicide cases: the diminished capacity of juveniles, and the disproportionality of sentencing any person to LWOP when there was no intent to kill, or an actual murder (like the holding in Kennedy). Those two factors did not have to considered together, since the Court said combined, they *twice* diminished a juvenile's moral culpability.

The Court also makes clear that juveniles will spend many more years in prison than adults for the same crimes under LWOP, since they are younger; that no other country besides Israel allows JLWOP; that juveniles should have the chance to redeem themselves through rehabilitation because a court makes an arbitrary determination that a kid is beyond redemption when they impose JLWOP; and that juveniles are often not able to helpfully assist in their own defense for various reasons, thus adding to the arbitrariness of a LWOP sentence. There was also statistical evidence regarding actual imposition of LWOP that was heavily considered.

All of these factors would be exactly the same in murder cases, unless in a particular case, the juvenile was diagnosed as an irredeemable psychotic who could never rehabilitate, but counsel would probably never try to take that kind of case to SCOTUS anyway.

Just a quick explanation based on my cursory review of the holding.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I love the way you roll.



Scott Stevens said...

Anon 11:16

I am always puzzled by anonymous posters, though I know there are sometimes legitimate reasons for them. I am doubly mystified by an anonymous poster who posts comments "analyzing" some law or opinion and ends with just "my" thoughts or just "my" opinion. Just whose opinion?

I don't mean to sound overly critical; the written word is easily susceptible to being given the mental equivalent of inflection that was not intended by the writer. Please don't take my comments as having any sarcastic or sardonic content.

Still, I would find it easier to assign some weight to a poster's opinion who posts under his/her name, or at least a screen name that does not change with every post. There are some who post under their own names and it is easy to have some idea how much weight to give to their opinions when they do.

I have read your post carefully and it seems, by way of internal consistency and general language, to be that of someone well reasoned, but I am still not sure how accurate until having take the time to read the opinion for myself, which may yet take a few days.

If there none of the legitimate concerns over keeping you identity secret apply, would you consider posting publicly?

CharityLee said...

Now all we need to do is get Texas to up the age of certification thereby putting even fewer children into the adult system and hopefully getting them some semblance of rehab...hopefully.

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