Newton v. Indiana

Juvenile Law Center, along with The Promise of Justice Initiative and Children and Family Justice Center, filed an amicus brief in support of Larry Newton’s petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Newton was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for a murder he committed at age 17 with two older co-defendants. His life without parole sentence was the result of a plea agreement he accepted as a teenager, in which he agreed to plead guilty “in exchange for the State agreeing to dismiss its request for the death penalty.” Our brief urged the Court to accept review because the threat of the death penalty—a punishment the U.S. Supreme Court has since recognized as unconstitutional for juvenile offenders—rendered the plea negotiations coercive. We argued that the impossible choice presented to Mr. Newton—being sentenced to die in prison or facing the possibility of execution—was especially untenable due to his status as an adolescent who is uniquely vulnerable during plea negotiations due to scientifically-proven fundamental differences between adolescent and adult decision-making processes.