The Supreme Court delivered two interesting decisions today. In a 6-3 split decision, life sentences without the possibility of parole cannot be handed to criminal juveniles where no one is killed, reversing current law in 37 states, including Florida and California. This decision stems from Terrance Graham, who, in 2003 at age 16, robbed a Jacksonville, Florida restaurant and was sentenced to a year in jail with three years probation. A year later, Graham robbed a home with two accomplices; he was sentenced to life in prison for violating his probation. Justice Kennedy opined that Graham would “die in prison without any meaningful opportunity to obtain release, no matter what he might do to demonstrate that the bad acts he committed as a teenager are not representative of his true character, even if he spends the next half century attempting to atone for his crimes and learn from his mistakes.”
The other High Court decision (7-2 split) upheld the federal government’s authority to detain prisoners deemed “sexually dangerous” beyond the date of their original sentence. This law effectively reiterated a provision in the 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, and allows confinement in a federal facility until either: 1) the person’s mental condition improves to the point where he is no longer poses a threat; or, 2) the state assumes responsibility for his care and treatment. The case leading to the decision involved an attorney general prolonging the detention of a child pornographer because of the threat he posed to society, which was initially appealed on grounds of being unconstitutional.