Divided High Court Orders New Look at AZ Juvenile Cases

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A divided Supreme Court today returned the cases of several Arizona inmates to the state courts, instructing them to take another look in light of last term’s decision that barred mandatory sentences of life without parole for inmates who were juveniles when they committed their crimes applies retroactively, reports ScotusBlog. Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained that sending the cases back allows lower courts to consider whether the inmates’ sentences “comply with the substantive rule governing the imposition of a sentence of life without parole on a juvenile offender.” Sotomayor said lower court judges didn’t ask whether the inmates were “among the very ‘rarest of juvenile offenders, those whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.”

Justice Samuel Alito dissented from the decision, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. He asserted that “the Arizona courts have already evaluated these sentences … and their conclusions are eminently reasonable.” He added, “It is not clear why this Court is insisting on a do-over, or why it expects the results to be any different the second time around.”

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