Jones v. Mississippi
In Jones v. Mississippi, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari on the question of "whether the Eighth Amendment requires the sentencing authority to make a finding that a juvenile is permanently incorrigible before imposing a sentence of life without parole."
Juvenile Law Center and Mayer Brown filed an amicus brief on behalf of 67 organizations and individuals in the United States Supreme Court in support of Brett Jones. We argued that the Eighth Amendment requires the sentencer to determine that a juvenile offender is permanently incorrigible before imposing a sentence of life without parole in order to give effect to the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in Miller and Montgomery and to ensure that juvenile life without parole sentences are truly rare. We further argued that requiring a finding of permanent incorrigibility helps root out racial bias in sentencing and ensures meaningful appellate review.
The U.S. Supreme Court held that Miller and Montgomery only mandate a discretionary sentencing system, and do not require a sentencer to make a finding of permanent incorrigibility before sentencing a youth to life without parole. In a powerful dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor wrote that the decision “distorts Miller and Montgomery beyond recognition.” She argued that “[i]f sentencing discretion is all that is required, far too many juvenile offenders will be sentenced to die in prison,” and further emphasized the racial disparities in life without parole sentencing that will be exacerbated by this decision.