“Does imposing a life without parole sentence on a juvenile who neither killed nor intended to kill but who was convicted of felony murder violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments?” That’s the question presented in a Petition for Certiorari filed in Bell v. Arkansas, a case likely to be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in May.
The Fair Punishment Project filed a friend of the court brief in Bell. We made two main arguments. First, pushing beyond what the Petitioner urges in the case, we argued that life without the possibility of parole is invariably unconstitutional when it is imposed upon a juvenile.
Second, we argued, at the very least, juvenile life without parole is an excessive punishment for felony murder.
For an overview of the juvenile life without parole cases pending at the U.S. Supreme Court right now, including Bell, check out Chris Geidner’s recent piece in Buzzfeed, An Uncertain Path Ahead For Juvenile Sentencing Cases Still Before The Supreme Court.
Note: The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice also filed a friend of the court brief in Montgomery v. Louisiana, the case in which the Court held that its decision in Miller barring mandatory JLWOP sentences applies retroactively to every person suffering under such a sentence no matter when she or he was convicted. Listen to our colleague Rob Smith discuss the CHHIRJ brief on Slate’s podcast series, Amicus, hosted by Dahlia Lithwick.