Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012)

Reversed and Remanded
There is a dissent.

The court held that mandatory life imprisonment without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their offenses violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment “flows from the basic precept of justice that punishment for crime should be graduated and proportioned to both the offender and the offense.” The court stated that Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), and Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), “establish that children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing” due to their diminished culpability and greater capacity for reform. More specifically, children lack maturity and have an underdeveloped sense of responsibility, are more vulnerable to negative influences and outside pressures, and have greater potential for reform because their character is not as “well formed” as an adult’s. These “attributes of youth diminish the penological justifications for imposing the harshest sentences on juvenile offenders, even when they commit terrible crimes.” A sentencing scheme that subjects juvenile offenders to mandatory life imprisonment without parole “contravenes Graham’s (and also Roper’s) foundational principle: that imposition of a State’s most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children.” The court did not categorically bar a sentence of life without parole for all offenders under 18. Instead, it held that such a sentence may be imposed only after a sentencing court “follow[s] a certain process” that allows it to “consider[] an offender’s youth and attendant characteristics.”

Concurring Opinion: Justice Breyer filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Sotomayor joined.

Dissenting Opinions: Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito joined. Justice Thomas and Justice Alito also filed their own dissenting opinions, in which Justice Scalia joined.


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