Today at the Supreme Court
By William Watkins • Monday May 17, 2010 4:29 PM PST •
The Supreme Court decided an 8th Amendment case today, Graham v. Florida. The Court held that the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause does not permit a juvenile offender to be sentenced to life in prison without parole for a nonhomicide crime. While reasonable people can agree or disagree with the Court’s decision as a matter of policy, we should be concerned that the Court makes such calls rather than the people’s elected representatives.
I highly recommend Justice Thomas’s dissent. Here is a snippet:
The ultimate question in this case is not whether a life-without-parole sentence ‘fits’ the crime at issue here or the crimes of juvenile nonhomicide offenders more generally, but to whom the Constitution assigns that decision. The Florida Legislature has concluded that such sentences should be available for persons under 18 who commit certain crimes, and the trial judge in this case decided to impose that legislatively authorized sentence here. Because a life-without-parole prison sentence is not a “cruel and unusual” method of punishment under any standard, the Eighth Amendment gives this Court no authority to reject those judgments.