In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court will release its opinion on whether or not it is constitutional to subject individuals younger than 14 years of age to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Two separate cases, one involving a 14 year old who was involved in a robbery that ended in the murder of a store clerk (though the teen was not the actual killer) and another involving a 14 year old who beat and set fire to an elderly neighbor, are being used to challenge these laws, the harshest punishment available for juvenile offenders since the court struck down the juvenile death penalty in 2005.
Constitutional law is not my expertise, but knowing the current court’s makeup, I have a hard time believing that they will overturn these laws. The bigger question, for me, is whether they should. From a personal standpoint, I see these two cases as being fundamentally different: I don’t think felony murder (the crime of being involved in a crime that leads to the death of another person, even though the individual didn’t directly cause the death) should qualify a youth offender for life imprisonment, simply because kids get involved in things that they don’t understand, like this robbery, without being able to anticipate this type of consequence.
On the other hand, a kid that sets his neighbor on fire? You know what? I’m fine with him getting life imprisonment.