Juvenile Murderers: Is Life Without Parole Unconstitutional?

In court briefs, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, representing the Arkansas Department of Corrections, offers more details of the crime committed. He points out that Jackson joined two other friends at a video store. One of the other juveniles had a sawed off .410 shotgun hidden in the sleeve of his coat . The boys asked the clerk, Laurie Troup, for money. When she denied having money Jackson told her, "We aint playin'." When she said she'd call the police, the juvenile shot her in the head and killed her. The boys fled--never taking any money.

Jackson's arrest record dated back from before he was 10 years old. A jury convicted him of aggravated robbery and capital-murder and he was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

McDaniel does not dispute the proposition that juveniles are less culpable than adults or that they tend to engage in risky behavior. But, he says, "Despite their tendency to be impulsive, engage in risky behavior, or be sensation-seeking, most juveniles do not commit violent crimes and only a minute fraction of them commit murder."

McDaniel adds there is no national consensus against the imposition of life without parole on 14-year-old homicide offenders. He points out that 38 states authorize such a penalty. 32 states authorize life without parole for non-triggerman-juvenile felony murderers.

"Legislatures, are entitled to conclude," McDaniel argues, "that those who commit homicide are deserving of the most serious forms of punishment, including life imprisonment without parole. "

There are currently 79 people in the United States serving life-without-parole sentences for homicide offense committed at age 13 or 14.

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