July 13, 2012
On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Miller v. Alabama (linked with Jackson v. Hobbs). The question was whether a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole, imposed for a murder committed when the defendant was fourteen years old constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Kagan, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders. Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor joined the majority opinion. Justice Breyer filed a concurring opinion, which was joined by Justice Sotomayor. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Justice Thomas and Justice Alito each filed separate dissenting opinions, both of which were joined by Justice Scalia.
To discuss the case, we have John Stinneford, who is an assistant professor at the University of Florida Levin School of Law.