14 years old too young for life in prison?

Jul 10, 2007
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http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/15/10670418-14-years-old-too-young-for-life-in-prison

people actually are arguing that they're too young and minds too undeveloped to know the difference between right and wrong?
that they should be given a chance to be rehabilitated?
what kind of ideology do these people subscribe to?

Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson are lifers, condemned at 14 to spend their lives in prison without the possibility of parole for their involvement in separate murders. Their backers say their sentences are cruel and unusual, leaving them without the second chance the young are so often given. They hope the U.S. Supreme Court agrees.

Next Tuesday, the court will hear arguments in their cases and its ruling could have far-reaching effects. More than 2,200 people nationwide have been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles -- defined as 17 or younger -- according to the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., a civil rights group that represents Miller and Jackson.

The group hopes the companion cases will be another victory for juvenile criminals, who have found some relief before the Supreme Court over the past seven years. In 2005, the court abolished executions for juvenile offenders. Then, two years ago, the court ruled that it is unconstitutional to impose life sentences on juveniles convicted of crimes that do not involve homicide.

NBC's Pete Williams talks about the case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers for Miller, now 23, and Jackson, now 26, contend that juveniles are works in progress and will argue that forensic evidence shows adolescent brains are not fully developed. “Condemning an immature, vulnerable, and not-yet-fully-formed adolescent to life in prison – no matter the crime – is constitutionally a disproportionate punishment,” they say in their petition to the court. The Equal Justice Initiative declined to discuss the case because of the pending hearing.

Kim Taylor-Thompson, a professor of clinical law at the New York University School of Law, has studied juvenile offenders for nearly a decade and agrees with the group. "No one is excusing the fact of what happened," she said. "What we are saying is: Did these two young men engage in thought processes that would make us say today they're the type of individuals who can never be rehabilitated, never change and be locked up to never see the light of day?

Clyde Stancil / The Decatur Daily

Colby Smith, 18, left, and Evan Miller, 17, were convicted of killing Miller's neighbor.

“We believe that they deserve a second look.”

Supporters of life without parole for juveniles say judges should be allowed to give certain criminals, regardless of their age, harsh sentences when their crimes are egregious.

Thomas R. McCarthy, who filed a brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers, said sentences such as those handed to Miller and Jackson are "relatively rare and imposed only on teenagers who commit extremely heinous murders."

There have been a dozen friend-of-the-court briefs filed in support of Miller and Jackson, and as many filed against them.

Miller was a troubled teen living in a trailer park in Alabama in 2003 when he and a 16-year-old friend, Colby Smith, fought with a drunken neighbor and bludgeoned 52-year-old Cole Cannon with a baseball bat. They set his home on fire, leaving the man to die in the blaze.

arkansas.gov

Kuntrell Jackson was convicted of taking part in a murder during the robbery of a video store. Another youth shot the clerk.

Cannon's daughter, Candy Cheatham, said she is convinced Miller is still a ruthless killer. She said she has a seat reserved at Tuesday's hearing.

"My father had nine broken ribs and blunt-force trauma to his head," Cheatham told msnbc.com. "We could not have an open casket at his funeral because of the condition of his body -- it was charred."

"Evan Miller knew what he was doing,” she said. “He had no remorse and he has no remorse until this day. There is no indication that I have seen a change in the man that killed my father. He deserves to be locked away until his last day."

The Equal Justice Initiative declined to make Miller and Jackson available for interviews ahead of the court hearing.

Jackson was walking through a housing project in Arkansas with two older boys in 1999 when they started talking about holding up a video store. When they arrived at the store, the other boys went in, but Jackson stayed outside by the door, his lawyers said. One of the older boys fatally shot the clerk before all three fled. Prosecutors said Jackson knew one of the other boys had a shotgun, and that Jackson was inside the shop at the time of the shooting, telling the clerk: "We ain't playin'."

Here are the stories of other lifers who believe they deserve a second chance:

Quantel Lotts, Missouri
He stabbed his 17-year-old stepbrother in a scuffle in St. Louis in November 1999. Lotts, now 26, told The New York Times he wasn’t reconciled to his life term. “I understand that I deserve some punishment,” Lotts told the Times in a 2011 interview. “But to be put here for the rest of my life with no chance, I don’t think that’s a fair sentence.”

Ashley Jones, Alabama
She was 14 when she helped her boyfriend kill her grandfather and aunt in Birmingham by stabbing and shooting them and then setting them ablaze. Jones also tried to kill her sister, 10, prosecutors said. The Equal Justice Initiative says the now 22-year-old has turned her life around and is deserving of a chance at freedom.

T.J. Tremble, Michigan
Tremble, then 14, rode his bike to an elderly couple's home in Au Gres, Mich., in 1997, shot the two in the head as they slept and stole their car. In an interview in 2005 with a reporter for the Bay City (Mich.) Times, Tremble, now 29, said he deserved redemption.

"The whole problem is that people don't think we can change, that we can't be rehabbed. For lifers, they don't offer us anything. Absolutely nothing," said Tremble, an inmate at the Saginaw Correctional Facility in Freeland, Mich.

Asked whether he deserved a shot at parole, Tremble said: "I'm not the same person now that I was when I got to prison. I've matured. I do feel I could make a difference out there. The only thing is, I've got to get that chance."
 
Jan 25, 2011
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My thoughts? Fuck 'em. One thing I've always hated in Canada was the Young Offenders Act.

There are some things that, if you do, you should never see the light of day again.
 

schneiderguy

Lifer
Jun 26, 2006
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This is why Kuntrell Jackson is in prison:

On November 18, 1999, Laurie Troup was working at Movie Magic, a video store in Blytheville, when appellant and two other juveniles entered the store and demanded that she give them money. When Troup refused to hand over the money, she was shot in the face with a sawed-off shotgun.

Let the little piece of shit rot.
 

classy

Lifer
Oct 12, 1999
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It depends, case by case. Quantel Lotts should be let out. Maybe Kuntrell Jackson. But Ashley Jones, TJ Tremble, Colby Smith, and Evan Miller, hell no. Let them Rot.
 

blankslate

Diamond Member
Jun 16, 2008
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I think that by the time you're a teenager you have a good enough sense of right and wrong unless there is something wrong with your brain development.

I have no sympathy for these people.
 

werepossum

Elite Member
Jul 10, 2006
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In general I think the crime has to be pretty heinous to deserve life without parole if committed at fourteen. The others arguably are, but Quantel Lotts doesn't seem to qualify as given here. Knifed his step brother in a scuffle? That doesn't sound like something that should get ANYONE life without parole. Perhaps he was a habitual criminal at fourteen? Fighting with a drunken neighbor, even setting his house and fire and allowing him to burn to death, seems a bit questionable as well, if pretty horrendous. For the others, well, thank goodness we have prisons and hope they never get out.

EDIT: I missed that Jackson didn't actually do the shooting, Classy. Life without parole seems harsh for him as well. Maybe give him twenty years (and ten years apiece to whomever named him Kuntrell.)
 
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Jan 25, 2011
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In general I think the crime has to be pretty heinous to deserve life without parole if committed at fourteen. The others arguably are, but Quantel Lotts doesn't seem to qualify as given here. Knifed his step brother in a scuffle? That doesn't sound like something that should get ANYONE life without parole. Perhaps he was a habitual criminal at fourteen? Fighting with a drunken neighbor, even setting his house and fire and allowing him to burn to death, seems a bit questionable as well, if pretty horrendous. For the others, well, thank goodness we have prisons and hope they never get out.

EDIT: I missed that Jackson didn't actually do the shooting, Classy. Life without parole seems harsh for him as well. Maybe give him twenty years (and ten years apiece to whomever named him Kuntrell.)

After rereading I'd agree with you. Still long sentences but parole eligibility down the line. the rest I really have no sympathy at all for.
 

etrigan420

Golden Member
Oct 30, 2007
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In general I think the crime has to be pretty heinous to deserve life without parole if committed at fourteen. The others arguably are, but Quantel Lotts doesn't seem to qualify as given here. Knifed his step brother in a scuffle? That doesn't sound like something that should get ANYONE life without parole. Perhaps he was a habitual criminal at fourteen? Fighting with a drunken neighbor, even setting his house and fire and allowing him to burn to death, seems a bit questionable as well, if pretty horrendous. For the others, well, thank goodness we have prisons and hope they never get out.

EDIT: I missed that Jackson didn't actually do the shooting, Classy. Life without parole seems harsh for him as well. Maybe give him twenty years (and ten years apiece to whomever named him Kuntrell.)

Agreed WP, but let's be honest with ourselves here...do we *really* want these guys out in society at 34 years old, having done 20 of that behind bars?

What a tragic situation. :\
 

classy

Lifer
Oct 12, 1999
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Quantel and Kuntrell I think those two should have been tried as juveniles and counseled and kept locked up till the age of 21 and then set free. The two boys, Miller and Smith, who beat the old dude to death, they are tried as adults and given life with the possibility of parole. But only if it is concluded they won't be a danger. These 3 were crimes committed in the heat of the moment type stuff.

Then we have Ashley and Tremble.............
We have folks who commit murder and then we have killers. Ashley and Tremble are killers that fully blossomed at 14 and should never ever be let out.
 

Svnla

Lifer
Nov 10, 2003
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Can't do the time, then don't do the crime.

For those that say let show mercy to those bastards, they did not show any to their victims. Let them rot with Bubbas.
 

NeoV

Diamond Member
Apr 18, 2000
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agree, the kid that didn't actually shoot anyone shouldn't be held to the same standard as the shooters
 

werepossum

Elite Member
Jul 10, 2006
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Agreed WP, but let's be honest with ourselves here...do we *really* want these guys out in society at 34 years old, having done 20 of that behind bars?

What a tragic situation. :\
Do I want them out in society? Hell no. But that's a different question than whether I have the right to keep them locked up. I expect they will be career criminals, but I don't think I have the right to incarcerate individuals beyond a reasonable punishment even though statistically I'll be right when taken as a group. And yes, it's certainly tragic; whether they are natural born killers or society has failed them, I'm sure they have people who love them and miss them.

I think most people in prison for murder COULD have been good, productive people with different chances or different choices, but they have to be treated in accordance with what they did, not for what they might have been had things been different. Others - well, I agree with Classy about Tremble and Jones. Some people are just born sociopaths.
 

monovillage

Diamond Member
Jul 3, 2008
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Life in prison is too cruel for those young offenders. They should be put to death instead.
 

werepossum

Elite Member
Jul 10, 2006
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agree, the kid that didn't actually shoot anyone shouldn't be held to the same standard as the shooters
Yeah, they should be prosecuted for the same crime, but not receive the same punishment as the actual shooters unless there's some strong evidence that the killing was a group plan.
 

Joepublic2

Golden Member
Jan 22, 2005
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No way in hell should any of these people be let out. Quantel didn't just punch his stepbrother and break his neck or made him fall and hit his head, he stabbed him which shows a clear intent to kill. Kuntrell didn't actually kill anybody but he was complicit in the murder and also showed intent to kill by saying "We ain't playin'." as in "give us the money or we'll kill you", which they did. I've been in plenty of fights and I've never stabbed/shot anybody, even when I was carrying a knife/gun.

Juveniles should be charged as juveniles. 14 is a juvenile.

So if they killed you or somebody you loved you wouldn't have a problem with them getting released after 4 years? :rolleyes:
 
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TheVrolok

Lifer
Dec 11, 2000
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If you literally fucked them, then the government would say they are children and aren't responsible for their actions.

Came to say something similar, also that they're far too immature/irresponsible to understand the use of alcohol/tobacco.
 

senseamp

Lifer
Feb 5, 2006
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No way in hell should any of these people be let out. Quantel didn't just punch his stepbrother and break his neck or made him fall and hit his head, he stabbed him which shows a clear intent to kill. Kuntrell didn't actually kill anybody but he was complicit in the murder and also showed intent to kill by saying "We ain't playin'." as in "give us the money or we'll kill you", which they did. I've been in plenty of fights and I've never stabbed/shot anybody, even when I was carrying a knife/gun.



So if they killed you or somebody you loved you wouldn't have a problem with them getting released after 4 years? :rolleyes:

You could change the law for juvenile sentencing so they aren't released in 4 years. It's better than changing the definition of juvenile.
 

boochi

Senior member
May 21, 2011
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vietnam_execution.jpg


This is how we ought to handle everyone guilty of premeditated murder. It would offer a pretty good deterrence for future would be killers. No mercy, no excuses, just bang your dead motherfucker. Rot in hell!!!
 

werepossum

Elite Member
Jul 10, 2006
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If you literally fucked them, then the government would say they are children and aren't responsible for their actions.
I believe fourteen is the age where consent becomes legally possible and rape becomes statutory rape, but you have a point.
 

Joepublic2

Golden Member
Jan 22, 2005
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This is how we ought to handle everyone guilty of premeditated murder. It would offer a pretty good deterrence for future would be killers. No mercy, no excuses, just bang your dead motherfucker. Rot in hell!!!

I'd generally agree for most circumstances if I thought that huge centralized govts. had the moral authority to kill people (they don't IMO).

You could change the law for juvenile sentencing so they aren't released in 4 years. It's better than changing the definition of juvenile.

This assumes that I believe that a 14 year old isn't capable of understanding the implications of murder. If you can plot/perform murder you're capable of understand its implications, by definition. Murder to me means killing when not required to protect you or somebody else from mortal violence.
 
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Rainsford

Lifer
Apr 25, 2001
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I believe that a 14 year old is capable of making errors in judgement since their ability to reason isn't equal to that of an adult. And I think that the difference should be taken into account by the justice system, anything else is ridiculous. As someone pointed out, 14 years old isn't legally considered competent enough to consent to sexual actions in many cases, can it REALLY be old enough when it comes to criminal activities?

That said, for crimes like murder I think taking age into account STILL supports sentences like life in prison. A 14 year old's ability to reason isn't fully formed, but it's not totally absent. Their reasoning ability may be less mature, but it doesn't take much reasoning ability at all to understand that you shouldn't murder people. Small children can understand that, it's ridiculous to claim that a 14 year old can't.

The real question is whether or not you believe a 14 year old capable of murder can turn into a 30 year old who isn't. I believe that if you're that disconnected from appropriate civilized behavior at 14, you're not going to be much improved by age. A 14 year old who throws some rocks throw the school windows can improve, a 14 year old murderer has too far to go to become a useful member of society, IMO.
 

CitizenKain

Diamond Member
Jul 6, 2000
4,480
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This is how we ought to handle everyone guilty of premeditated murder. It would offer a pretty good deterrence for future would be killers. No mercy, no excuses, just bang your dead motherfucker. Rot in hell!!!

It doesn't. But don't let reason stop your bloodlust.