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Life Sentence for a Crime Committed at 14; How it affects Arizona Juvenile Defense Law


There are 73 inmates throughout the nation who are serving life sentences with no possibility of parole for their part in homicides committed when they were 14 or younger. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear two of these cases where the focus of the arguments center on the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Eighth Amendment reads:

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

So the question here is, is a life sentence an appropriate penalty for someone 14 years old? Are there situations where this punishment might be acceptable? Does it depend on the nature of the crime?

Here are some of the facts on the two cases:

Evan Miller was 14 when he and a 16-year-old boy got into a fight with a neighbor who was drunk. They beat him with a baseball bat, took $350 and his baseball card collection and set his trailer on fire. The victim, age 52, died of his injuries and smoke inhalation. Evan was tried as an adult and an Alabama jury convicted him of capital murder during the course of first degree arson.

Kuntrell Jackson was 14 in 1999 when he and two friends robbed a video store. One of the other boys shot and killed the store clerk. Jackson was not accused of firing the gun or intending to murder the clerk. However, he was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.

There are a few recent cases regarding juveniles, the death penalty, and life sentences that favor the rulings to result in the abolishment of life without parole for minors in all cases. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the imposition of the death penalty on minors was a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Then in 2010, the Court extended this reasoning to juveniles sentenced to life without parole in non-homicide cases. The Supreme Court’s decision is expected by June 2012.

Crimes involving minors are always different than those with adults. It is important that if your son or daughter has been accused or charged with a crime that you at least consult with an Arizona juvenile defense attorney about you and your child’s options.

If you are ready to have your case handled by an Arizona juvenile defense attorney who knows and understands, call 480-245-5550 to schedule your free anytime, anywhere consultation with Arizona criminal defense attorney Charlie Naegle. When you hire Naegle & Crider Criminal Defense Attorneys, you work directly with Charlie Naegle. For your convenience, you may also use our consultation request form and we will contact you as soon as possible.

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