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JLWOP -- Wisconsin Gets It Right

Todd Richmond reports for AP:

A boy who was 14 when he helped throw another boy off a parking ramp to his death was properly sentenced to life in prison without parole, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Omer Ninham's lawyers argued that the sentence violated the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment given Ninham's age when the crime was committed. State attorneys countered that nothing prevents such a sentence for juveniles in homicide cases.

The opinion (5-2) is here:

Ninham mounts a categorical constitutional challenge, arguing that sentencing a 14-year-old to life imprisonment without parole is cruel and unusual in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 6 of the Wisconsin Constitution. In the alternative, Ninham seeks sentence modification on the grounds that (1) his sentence is unduly harsh and excessive; (2) new scientific research regarding adolescent brain development constitutes a new factor that frustrates the purpose of the sentence; and (3) the circuit court relied on an improper factor when imposing the sentence. We disagree with Ninham on all four grounds, and accordingly, we affirm the decision of the court of appeals.

The insufferable Bryan Stevenson says he will take the case to SCOTUS.  Okay.  They have to address the issue sometime.  Bring it on.



There is something to be said for Byron. Once upon a time, Ken Starr and I were debating the DP against Byron and Sam Milsap at the National Press Club. The usual line came up that we could replace the DP with LWOP and insure everyone's safety just as well.

This is false for a variety of reasons you and I have set forth at length. Among other things, LWOP could be repealed any 'ole time, and replaced with a parole-eligible system.

I asked Byron whether, if the country were to go along with his suggestion for LWOP over the DP, he would pledge that he would oppose any effort to dilute the promised "no parole" provision. To his credit, he said no dice, and didn't really beat around the bush about it.

I put up an entry about the debate roughly 16 months ago: http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2010/01/is-lwop-the-real-deal.html.

Perhaps Ninham can be rehabilitated. Perhaps not. He has forfeited his right to have society roll the dice with its safety.

Thanks, Kent, for calling attention to this important ruling. Every time a state court is asked by Bryan Stevenson and others like him, we hear the same thing. Life sentences for teen killers, tried as an adult for exceptionally heinous crimes where a high degree of culpability is demonstrated, are entirely constitutional. The facts of these crimes are important for anyone to read and understand if they are interested in this issue. For more information see www.teenkillers.org

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