In 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled that juveniles convicted of crimes other than a homicide cannot receive a mandatory life sentence without the opportunity for parole. The high court determined that a person convicted of a crime before the juvenile reaches the age of 18 should have the opportunity for parole, based upon a showing of rehabilitation. Last year, the high court extended the constitutional concept to bar mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder.
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday ruled that the constitutional principle does not apply to consecutive sentences that are tacked on after a parole review hearing on a life sentence, even if the consecutive terms exceed a person’s life expectancy. The case arose from events that allegedly occurred in 1999.
A then-16-year-old male was accused of being one of the males who forced two teens into their home in Harvey. A woman arrived at the home and was also bound with duct tape until the father of the two teens came home, according to prosecutors. The father arrived and was forced to an ATM machine. Police claimed that the men accused of entering the home and holding people hostage never got any cash from the ATM, but did take items from the home.
The 16-year-old was convicted in adult court of aggravated kidnapping and received a mandatory life sentence without the opportunity for parole. In addition, the teen was convicted of four counts of armed robbery and sentenced consecutively to 40 more years in prison.
When the U.S. high court ruled mandatory life sentences without parole unconstitutional for juvenile offenders, a Jefferson Parish judge reviewed the man’s sentence and ruled under the Supreme Court ruling that the defendant was entitled to a parole review on the mandatory life sentence when he turned 46.
The judge extended his ruling to the four consecutive sentences on the robbery convictions. The judge reasoned that any other result would nullify the intent of rehabilitation for juvenile offenders under the U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The order was appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which disagreed with the trial court. The state high court refused to extend the principle to the consecutive sentences. The high court says that the earliest the defendant will be eligible for parole is when the he is 86-years-old.
Generally, the juvenile justice system operates differently from adult criminal court. The juvenile system generally is aimed toward rehabilitation more than in punishing offenders. However, a juvenile can face serious charges and consequences, especially if triad as an adult.
Source: The Times-Picayune, “Louisiana Supreme Court clarifies sentencing question in juvenile cases,” Paul Purpura, May 8, 2013