The Supreme Court, in its 2012 decision Miller v. Alabama, issued an invitation for the defense bar to create a fairer and more individualized sentencing landscape in juvenile cases with a potential sentence of life without parole, establishing that juvenile-life-without-parole cases are the constitutional equivalent of death-penalty cases. Therefore, the principles that govern capital sentencing investigation apply. The defense team’s investigation must include an exhaustive examination of the defendant, their life, medical and mental health, social connections, and environment. Members of the defense team must conduct a mitigation investigation that allows the team members to know their clients’ life histories better than the team members know their own histories. Some key principles that should guide the sentencing-advocacy process in juvenile-life-without-parole-cases are: (1) a mitigation investigation must start immediately; (2) the investigation must include multiple in-person, one-on-one, face-to-face interviews and exhaustive record collection; (3) the investigation must include a multi-generational investigation of the defendant’s family; and (4) the defense team must include a mitigation specialist and other experts.
Sage is proud to have contributed to the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth's Trial Defense Guidelines: Representing a Child Client Facing a Possible Life Sentence. This document promises to be a valuable resource for practitioners in this cutting-edge legal landscape.
Sage article on mitigation and juvenile-life-sentence cases