EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Friday, January 19, 2018

Cyntoia Brown & the "51-To-Life" Project: Pennsylvania

This is the thirty-ninth in a series of posts on the "51-To-Life" Project. In Tennessee, if a juvenile is convicted of first-degree murder, there are two sentencing options: (1) life without the possibility of parole; or (2) life with the possibility of parole, with that possibility only existing after the juvenile has been incarcerated for 51 years. In this post, I will explain why Pennsylvania treats juvenile homicide offenders better than Tennessee.  

Pennsylvania still allows for juveniles to receive a sentence of life without parole. That said, in its 2017 opinion in Commonwealth v. Batts, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania created a presumption against a juvenile life without parole sentence.

In Pennsylvania, a juvenile homicide offender can also receive a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. Pursuant to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Section 1102.1(a)(1),

A person who at the time of the commission of the offense was 15 years of age or older shall be sentenced to a term of life imprisonment without parole, or a term of imprisonment, the minimum of which shall be at least 35 years to life.

Therefore, a juvenile homicide offender in Tennessee could be released after serving 35 years. As a result, Pennsylvania treats juvenile homicide offenders better than Tennessee.



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