Life sentences for 14-year-old killers questioned
Should children convicted of murder spend the rest of their life in prison?
Some say that their sentences were cruel and unusual. Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for their part in murders committed while both were only 14 years of age. Their supporters are now taking their cases before the Supreme Court.
Evan Miller, white shirt was a troubled teen living in a trailer park in Alabama in 2003 when he and a 16-year-old friend fought with a drunken neighbor and bludgeoned 52-year-old Cole Cannon with a baseball bat. The two then set his home on fire, leaving the man to die in the blaze.
The Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., a civil rights group, is representing Miller and Jackson. They hope the companion cases will be another victory for juvenile criminals, who have found some relief before the Supreme Court over the past seven years.
In 2005, the court halted executions for juvenile offenders. Two years ago, the court ruled that it is unconstitutional to impose life sentences on juveniles convicted of crimes that do not involve homicide.
Lawyers for Miller, who is now 23, and Jackson, who is now 26, contend that juveniles are works in progress and will argue that forensic evidence shows adolescent brains are not fully developed.
"Condemning an immature, vulnerable, and not-yet-fully-formed adolescent to life in prison - no matter the crime - is constitutionally a disproportionate punishment," they say in their petition to the court.
Miller was a troubled teen living in a trailer park in Alabama in 2003 when he and a 16-year-old friend fought with a drunken neighbor and bludgeoned 52-year-old Cole Cannon with a baseball bat. The two then set his home on fire, leaving the man to die in the blaze.
Cannon's daughter, Candy Cheatham says she is convinced Miller is a ruthless killer. "My father had nine broken ribs and blunt-force trauma to his head," Cheatham told msnbc.com. "We could not have an open casket at his funeral because of the condition of his body -- it was charred."
Kuntrell Jackson was convicted of taking part in a murder during the robbery of a video store. Another youth shot the clerk.
The Equal Justice Initiative has declined to make Miller and Jackson available for interviews ahead of the court hearing.
Kim Taylor-Thompson, a professor of clinical law at the New York University School of Law, has studied juvenile offenders for nearly a decade and agrees with the group. "No one is excusing the fact of what happened," she said. "What we are saying is: Did these two young men engage in thought processes that would make us say today they're the type of individuals who can never be rehabilitated, never change and be locked up to never see the light of day?
"We believe that they deserve a second look."
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
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Keywords: Teen offenders, murders, life sentences, Supreme Court
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