Among the Supreme Court rulings this week was a decision to strike down state laws that mandate life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juvenile murderers. In a 5-4 decision, the court declared that it was unconstitutional to send a young murderer to “die in prison” if the judge or jury did not consider mitigating factors of the offender’s age and nature of crime.
Twenty-eight states, including Missouri, have laws that allow LWOP sentences for young murderers. The Missouri Department of Corrections said it will take some time to determine how the ruling affects the state. Currently, 84 offenders in Missouri are serving LWOP sentences for murders committed under the age of 18. Of those, 11 were age 15 at the time of the crime, and two were age 14.
The ruling this week follows previous rulings in prior years where the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to put juvenile murderers to death and to incarcerate them for life for non-homicide offenses.