Iowa Supreme Court rules on life sentences for juveniles
Tags: Iowa City Iowa
Iowa Supreme Court rules on life sentences for juveniles published by Mooba
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Posted on 2016-05-28
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The Iowa Supreme Court is banning life prison sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder. The court ruled 4-3 Friday that the punishment amounts to cruel and unusual punishment under the Iowa Constitution.
Justices ruled in the case of Isaiah Sweet, who was 17 when he killed his custodial grandparents at their Manchester home in 2012.
A judge in 2014 sentenced Sweet to life in prison without parole, saying he was a cold-blooded murderer who had little chance of rehabilitation.
Justices overturned that sentence Friday. The court says even the worst juvenile offenders should have the option of someday proving to the parole board they're fit for release.
The court says judges simply can't predict whether teens might be rehabilitated at the time of trial.
ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis released a statement on the decision:
"Today’s important decision is an appropriate recognition of what parents of teenagers have long understood: children are different than adults. It’s that simple. And a court, when sentencing a child, simply does not have the ability to accurately predict whether she will grow up to be a rehabilitated adult. For that reason, all children deserve a meaningful opportunity to be considered for eventual release upon demonstrated rehabilitation and maturity.
"No court should be able to sentence a child to die in prison without any hope of possible release during her lifetime. Iowa’s existing sentencing law for children convicted of Class A felonies is unconstitutional and a violation of human rights. We look forward to working with the legislature next session to replace it with a fair and constitutional law."
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