Death in prison sentences for 13 and 14-year olds.
Dominic Culpepper has been sentenced to imprisonment until death in Florida for a crime committed at age 14.
In the United States, dozens of 13- and 14-year-old children have been sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole after being prosecuted as adults. While the United States Supreme Court recently declared that death by execution is unconstitutional for juveniles, young children continue to be sentenced to die in prison with very little scrutiny or review. EJI has documented 73 cases where children 14 years of age or younger have been condemned to death in prison. Almost all of these kids currently lack legal representation and in most of these cases the propriety and constitutionality of their extreme sentences has never been reviewed.
Most of the sentences imposed on these children were mandatory: the court could not give any consideration to the child’s age or life history. Some of the crimes charged against these children do not involve homicide or even injury. Many of these children were convicted for offenses where older teenagers or adults were involved and primarily responsible for the crime. Nearly two-thirds of these adolescents are children of color.
EJI has launched a litigation campaign to challenge death in prison sentences imposed on young children. We are also working to increase public awareness in order to reform policies that reflect a lack of perspective and hope for young children.
In People v. Caballero, the California Supreme Court unanimously struck down the 110-years-to-life sentence imposed on Rodrigo Caballero for nonhomicide offenses when he was 16 years old. The court concluded that the sentence, which required Caballero to serve more than 100 years before being eligible for parole, denied him the opportunity to “demonstrate growth and maturity” to try to secure his release, in contravention of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Graham v. Florida.
Editorials across the country have expressed support for last Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger convicted of homicide are unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court today issued an historic ruling in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger convicted of homicide are unconstitutional. Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller, sentenced to life in prison without parole at 14, are now entitled to new sentencing hearings. Today’s ruling will affect hundreds of individuals whose sentences did not take their age or other mitigating factors into account.
In 1977, a 14-year-old mentally disabled girl was charged with second-degree murder after setting a fire that tragically killed two people in Chester, Pennsylvania. She was tried in adult court and sentenced to die in prison. EJI is now challenging her sentence and seeking relief for Trina Garnett, whose story is profiled in this month's issue of The Nation.