The Ohio Supreme Court is using precedent established in Florida in their
decision as to whether or not they can constitutionally send an individual
to prison for life for a crime committed as a juvenile.
In the 2010 case tried in Florida, the United States Supreme Court determined
that it was unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile to life imprisonment
with no chance of parole unless a murder had been committed. The case
established that doing so would violate the Eight Amendment, which speaks
of cruel and unusual punishments.
This case is quite similar, involving a 15-year-old boy who was charged
with, in addition to other charges, the robbery, kidnapping, and rape
of a college student.
The youth in question was sentenced to 112 years in prison, 10 years for
each of his convictions, as well as an additional 12 years for using a
firearm during the incident. He would not be eligible for a release due
to rehabilitation until he is 92 years old, which his attorney posits
effectively means no chance of release. She is pushing for the review
chance to come earlier so that if the young man has shown he is capable
of functioning well in society, he can at least spend a few years with
friends and family on the outside.
There is significant push back on this case, however, including from the
judge who performed the original sentencing, who stated in no uncertain
terms that the entire intent of the harsh sentencing was for the young
man to spend his entire life behind bars.
There are very specific laws in place to protect our nation’s youth,
including not only protecting them from crimes, but also preventing them
from suffering their entire lives in jail due to a crime committed while
still a child. There are exceptions, of course, and laws will always be
subject to different interpretations, but it will be interesting to see
how the Ohio Supreme Court comes down on this case.