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Jail Time And Violent Juvenile Offenders

Fighting for life without parole for young offenders. Tough states do not want to back down – or re-open old cases.

T.J. Lane, right, listens to his attorney during court proceedings in Juvenile Court Tuesday, March 6, 2012, in Chardon, Ohio. Lane has been charged with three counts of aggravated murder in the killings of students Demetrius Hewlin, Russell King Jr . and Daniel Parmertor. (AP)

T.J. Lane, right, listens to his attorney during court proceedings in Juvenile Court Tuesday, March 6, 2012, in Chardon, Ohio. Lane has been charged with three counts of aggravated murder in the killings of students Demetrius Hewlin, Russell King Jr . and Daniel Parmertor. (AP)

We are all too familiar in this country with children who kill or try to kill.  A middle-schooler with a sawed-off shotgun in New Mexico.  A 14-year-old with a box cutter charged with killing his teacher.  For years, courts tried such minors as adults.  Many were given tough life sentences.  Then the U.S. Supreme Court said no.  Said children – even underage killers – deserve a chance at redemption.  No mandatory life sentences without parole.  Now states are wrestling with that ruling.  Some complying.  Some pushing back. This hour On Point:  juvenile offenders, life sentences, and the law.

 – Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Erik Eckholm, national legal correspondent for The New York Times. (@eckholm)

Jody Kent Lavy, director and national coordinator at The Campaign For the Fair Sentencing of Youth. (@jkentlavy)

Paul Downing, son of Janet Downing, who was murdered by Edward O’Brien in Somervile, MA in 1995.

David Freed, district attorney for Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. President of the Pennsylvanian District Attorneys Association.

Jeanne Bishop, assistant public defender in the office of the Cook County, Illinois Public Defender. Sister of Nancy Bishop Langert, who was shot to death at age 25 along with her husband and their unborn child. (@jeannebishop)

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: Juveniles Facing Lifelong Terms Despite Rulings – “Lawsuits now before Florida’s highest court are among many across the country that demand more robust changes in juvenile justice. One of the Florida suits accuses the state of skirting the ban on life without parole in non-homicide cases by meting out sentences so staggering that they amount to the same thing. Other suits, such as one argued last week before the Illinois Supreme Court, ask for new sentencing hearings, at least, for inmates who received automatic life terms for murder before 2012 — a retroactive application that several states have resisted.”

Detroit Free Press: Parole hearings on hold for 360 Michigan juveniles serving life sentences – “The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Attorney General Bill Schuette a stay of a federal judge’s order that would require parole hearings for about 360 Michigan juveniles now serving life sentences for murder with no possibility of parole. Today’s order is an early Christmas gift for families of murder victims who have been traumatized by the possible release of teenaged murderers sentenced to life without parole,’ Schuette said in a news release.”

NPR: Unlikely Advocates For Teen Killers: Victims’ Families — “One man’s mother had been killed by four teenage girls. Another man’s son was killed by a teenage boy. Yet all of them want the court to find life without parole for juveniles unconstitutional. It’s not a group you often hear about. Many in the room said they frequently are unwilling to share their feelings about the issue because they have been accused of not missing their loved ones enough. On this day, there was enough sorrow in the room to fill an afternoon — but also enough forgiveness.”

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