Supreme Court Rejects Mandatory Life Sentencing for Juveniles

In a narrow 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, it was decided that mandatory life sentencing under the age of 18 violates the 8th Ammendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.  According to retired California Superior Court Judge  Eugene Hyman, the reality is judges still have the discretion on individual cases to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole. With a 100 year sentence, for example, the end result is a life sentence.

Judge Hyman believes this is a natural progression in lieu of cases that have declared it unconstitutional to impose life sentences on juveniles who were involved in crimes that didn't include killing and others that banned the death penalty on teenagers.  In California, it isn't going to have an impact because the California courts already do what this decision was concerned with.  Judge Hyman says he's had habius cases, where you've contained someone illegally, where the person has killed someone and is found unfit to be treated as a juvenile and receives an adult sentence.  He's had juveniles that are found unfit to be tried as a juvenile and given 15 or 25 years to life.  At their parole hearings, there are no indications that they've had issues while in custody yet the parole board finds a reason to deny parole or if the parole board find them suitable for parole, the governor overrules them and then it comes to the the courts to deal with the issue.

The important part of this case, according to Judge Hyman is that it will be used for more examinations of how we do things with those under the age of 18 in terms of standards and review.

Honorable Judge Eugene Hyman has received numerous awards and recognition for his work with families and children and has appeared on numerous television news shows.  For more information, visit  He is also a featured commentator on The Family Law Channel and The Legal Broadcast Network.

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