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Juvenile Life Sentences Can Be Challenged, Says Supreme Court

Update Date: Jan 26, 2016 10:04 PM EST
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In a 6-3 majority vote, the Supreme Court ruled that those who are serving life sentences in prison and have no possibility of serving parole for crimes committed when they were juveniles can be permitted to petition for another chance to gain freedom.

On Monday, a decision extended a ruling from 2012, striking down automatic life sentences, and not giving the option of parole for juvenile murderers, reported the Associated Press.

This decision reverses the Louisiana Supreme Court's ruling and puts back the case to the lower courts.

People convicted long ago need to be either given the option to appeal for a new sentence or should be considered for parole.

The court's decision was a response to Henry Montgomery, a Louisiana man who in 1963 at the age of 17 killed a sheriff's deputy in Baton Rouge. He got a life sentence in the jails with no parole. In his trial, the court could not consider arguments that his age was important in their decision.

The court viewpoints were written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four liberal members, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, reported NBC News. In doing so, Kennedy said the court's decision in Miller v. Alabama made juvenile offenders eligible for parole.

"This would neither impose an onerous burden on the states nor disturb the finality of state convictions," he said, according to The Hill. "And it would afford someone like Montgomery, who submits that he has evolved from a troubled, misguided youth to a model member of the prison community, the opportunity to demonstrate the truth of Miller's central intuition-that children who commit even heinous crimes are capable of change."

However, another point is that the ruling does not give any clemency for those who are undertaking life sentences. Instead, they can only consider for parole or appeal for a new sentence.

"The opportunity for release will be afforded to those who demonstrate the truth of Miller's central intuition - that children who commit even heinous crimes are capable of change," he added.

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