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The Court is Right: Children are 'Constitutionally Different.'

Individuals told as children that they are unworthy of ever living again in a free society have renewed hope this week because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision reaffirming its call to hold young people accountable in age-appropriate ways. Now it is up to resentencing courts and parole authorities to ensure that happens. The Supreme Court's historic ruling, in Montgomery v. Louisiana, held as retroactive its 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, which banned mandatory life without parole sentences for […]


‘National Consensus’ Emerging Against Juvenile Life Without Parole

Since 2012, nine states have changed their laws to abolish juvenile sentences of life without parole (JLWOP), after the United States Supreme Court held that the sentences violate the Eighth Amendment, according to a study forthcoming in the American University Law Review. Measuring the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment against “evolving standards of decency,” the authors of the study argue that the “national consensus” is moving away from this sentencing practice. The authors write that the emergence […]


'Fairy Tales' & Drugs in America's Courtrooms

The arrest and conviction of Dennis Hardee, of Philadelphia, was nothing unusual in the annals of America's Drug War. In 2013, he was convicted of taking part in a conspiracy to rob a cocaine stash house and then sell the proceeds. As it happened, there was also nothing unusual in the fact that both the stash house and the drugs were invented by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)—a common tactic aimed at going after violent predators […]


'Outrageous Government Conduct'

The drugs were not real. The sentence was. Emanuel Gerardo Cota-Ruiz, a 36-year-old Mexican immigrant living in Arizona, was sentenced in 2013 to ten years in prison for conspiring to rob a cocaine stash house. Cota-Ruiz had no previous criminal history. He installed drywall. But, as his lawyer explained in court, he was unemployed and desperately searching for money to buy food, clothes and school supplies for his children when he was introduced to someone who described himself as a […]


Report: Supreme Court Justices Get Free Travel

Every member of the U.S. Supreme Court received free travel in 2014, according to a report by Reity O’Brien, a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity. The news site compiled financial disclosures detailing “the stock holdings, travel, spousal income, gifts and debts of the nine Supreme Court justices (which) show the many ways that the judges can pad their finances.” The site found that, through investments, most justice are millionaires, and all nine were paid to travel. Six of […]


Key Expert in Supreme Court Lethal Injection Case Did His Research on

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the highest-profile death penalty challenge in seven years, and the justices will began to consider this question: Does Oklahoma's use of the common surgical sedative midazolam fail to make prisoners unconscious during lethal injections, thus violating the Eighth Amendment's protection against “cruel and unusual punishment”? For many court watchers, however, a subject of special scrutiny is the credibility of Oklahoma’s key expert witness, Dr. Roswell Lee Evans, who has testified that inmates […]


There Goes the Judge

Nearly a decade ago, Penny White earned an unwelcome distinction in Tennessee legal history. In 1994, she was appointed by then-Tennessee Gov. Ned Ray McWherter to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court—becoming the second woman to ever serve on the court. Two years later, she was removed from office under a newly adopted merit-based system of “retention elections,” which gave Tennessee voters the right to fire justices even if no opponent stood against them. Before Justice White's defeat, […]