Amicus Brief for Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs
LatinoJustice PRLDEF joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, and Leadership Conference on Race and Human Rights in filing an amicus brief opposing the imposition of life sentences without parole on juvenile offenders in the Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The brief contends that life without parole sentences for fourteen-year-old offenders violate the Constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The brief also argues that racial stereotyping in imposing these sentences on children further undermines their validity.
Historically, the imposition of life without parole sentences is rooted in racial stereotyping. For much of the 20th century, courts widely held that children were less culpable than adults and therefore not subject to such severe penalties. But in the 1980s and 90s, the media, academics, and politicians increasingly characterized teen crime in racially coded terms. A 2000 study of news broadcasts in six major U.S. cities found that 62% of the stories involving Latino youth were about murder or attempted murder, even though data from 1998 indicated that minority youth accounted for only 25% of all juvenile crime arrests.
The continuing influence of race on the sentencing of youth to life without parole renders it unconstitutional. LatinoJustice contends that the Supreme Court should categorically exempt youth from this extreme and final sentence.