2010-07-22 / Local & State

Life Terms Imposed On Juveniles In Pa. Appealed

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Attorneys in Philadelphia, citing a recent Supreme Court ruling, have filed petitions on behalf of five people who were juveniles when they were sentenced to life in prison in Pennsylvania.

The high court ruled May 17 that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life without parole for any crime short of homicide.

Attorney Bradley Bridge said Friday was the deadline for Pennsylvania juveniles serving life terms who have already exhausted appeals to seek a second chance at life under the ruling. The commonwealth leads the nation with the number of such inmates with more than 450.

Most juveniles serving life – more than 90 percent nationally and all of those in Pennsylvania – were convicted of murder, which is excepted in the Supreme Court ruling. But advocates cite language in the ruling saying juveniles have limited moral culpability because adolescent brains are less fully developed.

Children “are different from adults whether they’re charged with a murder or whether they’re charged with a robbery,’’ Bridge said.

“We are not suggesting here that any of these people should automatically be released,’’ he said.’’ All we are contending is that they should be entitled to be considered for parole. They should have the opportunity to prove that they have learned and grown and changed.’’

But Jennifer Bishop- Jenkins, of Chicago, cofounder of the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers, called it “a slippery slope.’’

“I personally supported this ruling, because I don’t think life-without-parole for juveniles for a non-murder is appropriate,’’ Bishop- Jenkins said. But with a crime as heinous as homicide, the courts should weigh rights of victims more heavily than those of offenders, she said.

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