Holding: The Eighth Amendment prohibits a sentencing scheme that requires life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders.
Plain English Summary: In a series of decisions dating back to 1988, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that youths under age 18 who commit crimes must not necessarily get as severe a punishment as adults who committed the same kind of crimes. Among other rulings, the Court has forbidden the death penalty for minors who commit murders, and it has barred a sentence of life in prison without a chance of release for minors who commit crimes in which the victim is not killed. In this new ruling, the Court avoiding imposing such a flat ban on life without parole for a minor who commits murder, but it did rule out such a sentence as a mandatory requirement in all such cases. It said, though, that it does not expect very many youths under age 18 to get such a sentence that essentially would require them to stay in prison until they die.
Judgment: Reversed and remanded, in an opinion by Justice Kagan on June 25, 2012. Justice Breyer filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Sotomayor joined. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito joined. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Scalia joined. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Scalia joined.
Merits Briefs for the Petitioner
Amicus Briefs in Support of the Petitioner
Merits Brief for the Respondent
Amicus Briefs in support of the respondent