Supreme Court Finds Life Without Parole Unconstitutional for Some Juvenile Criminals

The United States is the only country in the world that allows such a punishment. But victims' rights advocates argue that the attention should be focused on the crimes the young men committed.

In court briefs, the state of Florida described how Graham, just shy of his 17th birthday, joined with accomplices to bludgeon a restaurant manager over the head to steal money.

"Shortly after his release from a county jail," wrote Florida attorney general Bill McCollum, "Graham almost immediately resumed an even more violent criminal life."

A Second Chance, Wasted

In court, the trial judge castigated Graham, who had been given a lenient sentence for his first violent offense and chose to "throw it away" after his release.

"Given your escalating pattern of criminal conduct, it is apparent to the court that you have decided that this is the way you are going to live your life and that the only thing I can do now is to try to protect the community from your actions," the judge said.

But some experts say that juveniles can change.

"I believe that kids are just less responsible then adults, and we can't hold them to the same standards of criminal culpability," said Laurence Steinberg, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia.

"They are worse at making decisions, they are more easily coerced by others, and they have more trouble controlling their impulses," he said.

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