Tennessee Supreme Court Ends Mandatory Life Sentences for Kids

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The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled on Friday that it is unconstitutional to automatically sentence a child to life imprisonment with no possibility of release for 51 years.Tyshon Booker was 16 years old when he was arrested in the shooting death of G’Metrik Caldwell. He was tried as an adult and convicted of felony murder and aggravated robbery. He was automatically sentenced to life in prison, a 60-year sentence requiring at least 51 years of incarceration. The Tennessee Supreme Court held that this sentence violates the Eighth Amendment because a court sentencing a juvenile must have discretion to impose a lesser sentence after considering the child’s age and other circumstances.The court relied on Miller v. Alabama, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles contravene the “foundational principle: that imposition of a State’s most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children.”“Youth matters in sentencing,” Tennessee’s high court wrote, quoting U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Sentencing judges must be allowed to consider the defendant’s youth to ensure that the most severe sentences “are imposed only in cases where that sentence is appropriate in light of the defendant’s age.”

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