WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that teenagers may not be locked up in prison for life with no chance of parole if they have not killed anyone.
By a 5-4 vote Monday, the court says the U.S. Constitution requires that young people serving life sentences must at least be considered for release.
The court ruled in the case of Terrance Graham, who was implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17. Graham, now 22, is in prison in Florida, which holds more than 70 percent of juvenile defendants locked up for life for crimes other than homicide.
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Children and Violence
“The state has denied him any chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a nonhomicide crime that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion. “This the Eighth Amendment does not permit.”
Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with Kennedy and the court’s four liberal justices about Graham. But Roberts said he does not believe the ruling should extend to all young offenders who are locked up for crimes other than murder.