New Jersey Supreme Court: Age must be considered when youths get 'life' terms

New Jersey's highest court has ruled that juveniles can't receive the practical equivalent of life sentences without parole unless the sentencing judge considers their age and its "attendant characteristics."



The unanimous ruling issued Wednesday by the state Supreme Court stemmed from appeals filed by two men who were both 17 when they were convicted of serious crimes and received lengthy prison terms. The decision means both men can seek resentencings.



Citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the New Jersey court found sentencing judges should take into account "how children are different" from adults and how those differences "counsel against sentencing them to a lifetime in prison."



The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented one defendant, calls the decision "a watershed moment" for juvenile rights.


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