8th Amendment Synopsis
The Eighth Amendment was adopted, as part of the Bill of Rights, in 1791. It is almost identical to a provision in the English Bill of Rights of 1689, in which Parliament declared, "as their ancestors in like cases have usually done…that excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Okay, here is my question. Why is is cruel and unusual for a Life w/o Parole for a minor, but not an adult?
Okay, the opinion is long as hell and I don’t want to wade through it all, but I’ll say a few things anyway, which might be wildly inaccurate. It’d be nice to see a brief on it but it’s probably too soon for that.
First of all, the ruling is about *mandatory *life without parole for certain crimes. I think this would only be the case for juveniles transferred to the adult system, but in many states there is no minimum age for that, and in some states certain crimes are *automatically *transferred to adult court.
So it seems the court is saying that youthfulness has to be allowed to be considered as a mitigating circumstance, but not that it has to be.
And wow, both of the cases in question (apparently there were originally two separate ones) involve 14-year-olds, and in one case the boy isn’t even the one who killed the person:
Anyway, I definitely agree with this ruling but I don’t agree with mandatory life without parole for adults either (I do believe it should be an option).
For me it’s the realization that adolescents are often just kids. I make allowance for the super evil adolescent that know exactly what the hell he’s doing, but I think generally there should be an assumption that if you’re under 17 or so, you’re going to make mistakes. Even big ones. I’m a big believer on personal responsibility, but that means that you hold people accountable who deserve to be accountable for their actions. Kids, or those with mental challenges deserve a something a bit more flexible.
I differentiate between evil crimes and stupid crimes. Most crimes are stupid, including most serious ones. Evil is like torturing someone, or thrill killing. Stupid is killing someone in the course of a robbery (could also be evil, but not usually).
For evil crimes I agree with life without parole, for juveniles or adults, because there’s no reforming evilness. I also think with juveniles there needs to be a little extra presumption that it was stupidity, because they do have diminished capacity to make decisions and they’re more easily influenced (the court said that last part in the opinion as well).
I tend to side with the court on this, but recognize that “cruel and unusual” pretty subjective, and I wouldn’t think someone was evil or stupid if they disagreed with the court. Since many states allow this, I can’t see that it’s “unusual”, so I’m going with “cruel”. And yes, the cutoff is somewhat arbitrary sine someone who is a day shy of 18 isn’t all that different from some a day past his 18th birthday. But, if you’re going to draw a line, then that’s just in the nature lines.
No comment on the constitutional issues but mandatory sentencing is clearly stupid and evil punishment, whether it be cruel and unusual or not. And life without parole is obscene as well (although I have no problem with indefinite incarceration)
And yeah - I would go with for under 16s a max of 12 years in prison, and for that there had better have been some serious killin’. 16-21 could be sentenced as adults but only in extreme cases, not the routine murders I understasnd they are done for in the Red US.