Juvenile Law Center, in collaboration with the Defender Association of Philadelphia and faculty at Temple University Beasley School of Law, Boston University School of Law and the University of San Francisco School of Law, filed this amicus brief in the Pennsylvania Superior Court on behalf of Sharon Wiggins. Ms. Wiggins pled guilty to murder in 1969 and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. At the time of the crime, Ms. Wiggins was seventeen years old. She is now sixty years old.
In the brief, Juvenile Law Center argues that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a juvenile convicted of murder violates both the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions as well as international law. In Graham v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of a life without parole sentence imposed upon a juvenile convicted of a non-homicide offense. The Court held the sentence unconstitutional, grounding its decision in developmental and scientific research demonstrating that juveniles possess a greater capacity for rehabilitation than adults, and reasoning that the sentence therefore served no legitimate penological purpose when applied to juveniles.