Tennessee court: Juvenile life sentencing unconstitutional

By KIMBERLEE KRUESI
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee’s Supreme Court has ruled that a state law mandating life sentences for juvenile homicide offenders is unconstitutional.

In its decision Friday, the court held that the law is “cruel and unusual punishment” and violates the Eighth Amendment.

The justices declared Tennessee a “clear outlier” as the only U.S. state to require that juvenile homicide offenders serve more than 50 years before they can be considered for parole.

In most other states, they are eligible for release in less than 35.

Justices Jeffrey Bivins and Roger Page dissented, arguing that state courts should not make “broad moral and social policy judgments” and sentencing decisions should be left to the legislative branch.

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