Saturday, April 24, 2021
Supreme Court Concludes a Finding of Permanent Incorrigibility is Not Required for a Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentence
In Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court held "that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishments.'" This week, in Jones v. Mississippi, the Supreme Court was faced with this related question: "Whether the Eighth Amendment requires the sentencing authority to make a finding that a juvenile is permanently incorrigible?" The Court answered that question in the negative.
Specifically, Brett Jones, who was 15 years old when he stabbed his grandfather to death during an argument about Jones’ girlfriend, was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life in prison without any possibility of parole. He later appealed, claiming that
a sentencer who imposes a life without parole sentence must also either (i) make a separate factual finding of permanent incorrigibility, or (ii) at least provide an on-the-record sentencing explanation with an “implicit finding” of permanent incorrigibility.
The Supreme Court rejected this argument, concluding that "the Court has unequivocally stated that a separate factual finding of permanent incorrigibility is not required before a sentencer imposes a life-without-parole sentence on a murderer under 18."