The Federalist Society asked me to write one paragraph for press distribution about today's decision in Miller v. Alabama. As I explained in that short statement, perhaps the most surprising thing about the opinion is the inability of so much of the press to understand what it holds. Reports of the demise of juvenile LWOP are incorrect (and, if I don't miss my guess, the result of considerable wishful thinking from the usual suspects, and others, in the liberal media). I noted:
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court held that states cannot mandate life without parole (LWOP) for juveniles convicted of murder. Although initial press coverage -- for example, from the AP, the Wall Street Journal, and CBS radio -- stated that the Court had ruled out LWOP for juvenile killers, that is incorrect. The Court held no more than that LWOP cannot automatically be imposed, and that sentencing in such cases must henceforth allow introduction of mitigating evidence particular to each defendant. In other words, the Court today did to juvenile LWOP what it did in the Woodson case in 1976 to capital punishment for adults: It held that rules automatically imposing the harshest penalty are inconsistent with the Eighth Amendment. It is thus worth remembering that, in the 36 years since Woodson, and in the era of discretionary death penalty sentencing, there have been 1298 executions in the United States. Thus, reports of the end of juvenile LWOP as a result of today's ruling are at best premature, and almost certainly wrong.