The Supreme Court has been asked to review the case of Christopher Pittman, a South Carolina boy sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole for murdering his grandparents when he was 12, reports the National Law Journal. Five third-year University of Texas law students teamed up with five public policy students to work on the case, said Michele Deitch, a criminal justice expert who teaches at the law school and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.
The petition to the high court argues that the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment imposes meaningful limits on non-capital sentencing of children. It asks the court to consider the issue of punishment of children raised in Roper v. Simmons, the 2005 decision that capital punishment on children under 18 is unconstitutional. The petition contends that a 30-year term without parole is “grossly disproportionate” for a crime committed at the age of 12. Most nations have established a minimum age of criminal responsibility higher than 12. Pittman, now 18, killed his grandparents in 2001 and then set fire to their home. His attorneys argued that he was influenced by the anti-depressant drug Zoloft.