Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is 30 hard years for a 12 year old cruel and unusual?

That's the issue in Pittman v. South Carolina, a case in which a 12-year old who shot and killed both of his grandparents was sentenced to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole. A petition for cert was filed yesterday in the Supreme Court (h/t How Appealing) alleging that:

...the 30-year sentence violates Christopher Pittman's Eighth Amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

Such a lengthy sentence is "unconstitutionally disproportionate as applied to a 12-year-old child," according a copy of the petition provided by the Juvenile Justice Foundation. It said Pittman "is the nation's only inmate serving such a harsh sentence for an offense committed at such a young age."

Opponents of Pittman's sentence have created a web site devoted to his release, or at least his ability to apply for parole before he's in his mid-40's.

Don't get your hopes up. As I said in a previous post:

The vote on a United Nations resolution calling for the abolition of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for children and young teenagers was nearly unanimously approved. In fact the vote was 185 to 1 with the United States the lone dissenter.

Or, as the New York Times described our national response to these issues compared with other nations:

[T]he United States stands alone in the world in convicting young adolescents as adults and sentencing them to live out their lives in prison. According to a new report, there are 73 Americans serving such [life without parole] sentences for crimes they committed at 13 or 14.

1 comment:

shg said...

Another travesty in our zeal to treat childrn like adults. We have lost our soul when we reject the notion that children can do wrong, but are still children.

Thanks for bringing us this story.