Today, the United States Supreme Court granted prisoners throughout the country the right to challenge their mandatory life sentences in court. In 2005 the Supreme Court barred the imposition of the death penalty for juveniles convicted of murder. In 2010 it barred the imposition of life sentences for non-homicides and in 2012 the Supreme Court barred the imposition of mandatory life sentences for juveniles, even for murder cases. However, the 2012 decision was not retroactive so it did not do anything for prisoners who had been sentenced to life in prison for crimes that they had committed prior to 2012. Today, the Supreme Court gave hope to those prisoners to at least have an opportunity to seek a review of their mandatory life sentences. Today's case involved 69 year old Henry Montgomery who had been convicted of murdering a deputy sheriff in 1963 when he was 17 years old. Montgomery had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In a 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery must have an opportunity to go back to court and challenge his mandatory life sentence. According to the majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, he stated "that prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside of prison walls must be restored." While the state still has the right to argue that the prisoner deserved this fate, at least the prisoners have some hope of someday getting out of jail. As you can tell from the progression of the Supreme Court's decisions on juvenile cases, today's decision seems to be a logical progression of where the Supreme Court has been going with juvenile cases. Since 2012 the Supreme Court has left the decision of what to do about prisoners sentenced to life in prison to state legislatures. Today's decision takes that away from the states and allows prisoners to have their day in court.
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