Over the past few years the United States Supreme Court has issued a couple rulings that bar mandatory life sentences without the opportunity for parole for juvenile offenders. Long before those rulings, a teen was convicted in adult court of aggravated kidnapping and sentenced to life without parole. He was 16-years-old when the allegations arose in 1999. He was also convicted of four counts of armed robbery and sentenced to a total of 40 more years to run consecutively to the life sentence.
Generally, the juvenile justice system is aimed more toward rehabilitation than toward punishing an offender. But, in some cases, a juvenile may be tried as an adult. The U.S. Supreme Court essentially applied the principle of rehabilitation of juveniles when it found it unconstitutional for juveniles to be denied the opportunity of parole.
After the nation’s highest court issued its ruling in the relevant case, a Jefferson Parish judge ruled that the Louisiana teen sentenced to life without parole will be eligible for a parole review hearing on his life sentence when he turns 46-year-old. He then extended the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to the consecutive sentences, ruling that the man should be eligible for a parole review at the age of 46. The judge reasoned that to rule otherwise “would effectively negate Graham’s ultimate directive to provide an opportunity for rehabilitation for the juvenile,” according to The Times-Picayune.
The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed that ruling Tuesday. The state high court says that while the defendant is eligible for parole on the life charge when he is 46 that only would start the clock on the term of year sentences that are to run consecutively. The state high court says that the U.S. court ruling does not apply to a term of year sentence. The man will not be eligible for parole until he turns 86.
Source: The Times-Picayune, “Louisiana Supreme Court clarifies sentencing question in juvenile cases,” Louisiana Supreme Court clarifies sentencing question in juvenile cases,” Paul Purpura, May 8, 2013