Juvenile Sentencing Law Ruled Unconstitutional in Oregon
By Conrad Wilson
The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Wednesday the state is violating the U.S. Constitution when it sentences juveniles convicted of aggravated murder.
The court said a sentence of life in prison without considering that youth offenders are developmentally different than adults convicted of the same crime is in conflict with the Eighth Amendment.
“In this case, we are asked to determine the constitutionality, under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, of a sentence — specifically, life imprisonment — imposed on a juvenile offender … when such a sentence is imposed without regard to the individual characteristics of the juvenile defendant,” Judge Bronson James wrote for the majority.
“We conclude that the imposition of life imprisonment … on juvenile offenders without individualized considerations of youth by the sentencing court, is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.”
The ruling stems from the March 2001 death of Barbara Thomas. She was killed by her teenage son and four of his friends, including Justin Link, near Redmond, Oregon. Marc Brown, the chief deputy public defender who argued the case, said Link didn’t pull the trigger.
The teens became known as the “Redmond Five.” After killing Thomas, the teens stole her car and drove for Canada. They were arrested when they tried to cross the border.