Defense teams representing juveniles facing possible life imprisonment should adhere to rigorous new guidelines to safeguard the youths' constitutional rights, say new standards endorsed by a wide array of legal advocates, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The Washington-based nonprofit Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY) released the guidelines in response to Supreme Court’s 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision.
“These kids are being sentenced to die in prison, and these guidelines are intended to raise the specialization and quality of defense,” said Heather Renwick of CFSY, which opposes extreme sentences for young people. The 2012 ruling declared unconstitutional mandatory life sentences for offenses committed by juveniles, citing characteristics unique to young people, including research on adolescent brain development. The 5-4 high court decision did not ban life sentences for juveniles, only mandatory ones.