Law Society leads international call in US Supreme Court case

The Law Society of England & Wales has successfully led a call by international lawyers’ organisations urging the US Supreme Court to rule that life sentencing without parole for children is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court held that condemning a child to prison for the rest of their life for non-murder offences violated the US Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
In Graham v Florida this week, the Court reversed the previous ruling against Terrance Jamar Graham, sentenced to life in prison following an armed burglary when he was 16 and a home invasion at 17.
The Law Society signed up to an Amicus Curiae brief submitted to the US Supreme Court in July 2009 and co-ordinated the international response. The brief was worked on by two dedicated English solicitors, Julian Killingley and Hannah Gorman, who were additional counsel in the case.
The Supreme Court looked to the international community and was supported by the fact that this sentencing practice has been rejected the world over, with the United States the only nation that still imposes it. **
Law Society president Robert Heslett says:
“The Law Society is delighted the US Supreme Court made the decision to rule this sentencing practice as unconstitutional.
“To condemn a child to a life in prison is absolutely cruel and unnecessary. But for many of those juveniles in prison in the US, their fight for a fair sentence is only beginning, and we recognise the struggle many may now face in getting legal representation for their right to appeal.
“We are dedicated to continually fight for the cause of human rights. The Law Society rightly stepped in to back this case, and we will continue to back other instances where we feel human rights are compromised.”
20 May 2010

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