Massachusetts’ highest court struck down life sentences without parole for juveniles on Tuesday saying the sentences were unconstitutional.
The state’s Supreme Judicial Court’s decision came after the US Supreme Court stuck down a law imposing automatic sentences of life without parole for juveniles.
The state court, noting that it had the power to accord individuals greater rights than the US Constitution, went further by also striking down discretionary sentences of life without parole.
“Given the unique characteristics of juvenile offenders, they should be afforded, in appropriate circumstances, the opportunity to be considered for parole suitability,” the SJC wrote in a decision released this morning.
The court cited the fact that a juvenile’s brain isn’t fully developed for the decision. A juvenile is defined as one that is under the age of 18.
The court stated that sentencing a juvenile to life without parole is “strikingly similar, in many respects, to the death penalty.” The death penalty was found to be unconstitutional under Article 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights (the state’s equivalent of the Eight Amendment to the US Constitution.
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