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Opening Arguments

Parole violations

I've seen a lot of misreporting this week of Monday's Supreme Court ruling on juvenile sentincing, especially in headlines, like this one on an Associated Press story -- "U.S. Supreme Court: No more life without parole for juveniles." The ruling wasn't quite that sweeping, as the story eventually makes a little clearer. What the 5-4 decision did was abolish mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. Some could still get such a sentence in there is a judicial determination that the specific circumstances of a case warrant it.

Indiana doesn't the kind of automatic law the court struck down, but the ruling could still affect us, according to some analysts:

IU Maurer School of Law professor Joseph Hoffman says the Supreme Court’s opinion was sending a message to lower courts about any kind of life without parole sentencing.

“They issued a very limited holding that will still allow juveniles to get life without parole sentences,” he says, “but they also sent a kind of signal to the lower courts, both state and federal courts, to be careful, be cautious about doing so, and that’s where we’re going to see the action over the next few years.”

It's appropriate to take more care with life-without-parole cases. The only way such a sentence can provide an acceptable alternative to the death penalty is if they're right enough so that we can reasonably be sure they'll seldom be overturned. I'm not sure I buy the argument cited that "juveniles should be treated differently than adults because their brains are still developing" -- they have enough brain power to know right from wrong. I'd rather argue that all life-without-parole cases get extra thought and care.