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A Matter Of Opinion

“Cruel and unusual punishment”

That’s the rationale for the Supremes striking down state laws that put people younger than 18 in prison for life without the possibility of parole for crimes that come up short of murder.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, speaking for the court, said a life prison term with no chance for parole is too extreme for a juvenile criminal whose offenses involve robbery or assault. He also noted that prior to today, “The United States is the only nation that imposes life without parole sentences on juvenile non-homicide offenders.”

Kennedy said these young criminals are not entitled to a “guarantee” of eventual release, but they do deserve “some realistic opportunity to obtain release” if they can show they are no longer a danger to the community.

The ruling came in the case of Terrance Graham, who as a teenager in Jacksonville, Fla., was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the armed robbery of a restaurant and a later home invasion robbery. He was 17 when a judge sent him to prison for life with no chance for parole.

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