For the Children
Okay, it is fair to say that 2016 has been, well . . . let’s just say tumultuous. It has had some ups and downs – big downs. But good things come to those who wait. The Ohio Supreme Court reminded us it is the holiday season and that there are still gifts to be unwrapped. Two of those gifts were delivered today and appropriately, they are for the children.
In State v. Moore, the Ohio Supreme Court held, "that pursuant to Graham, a term-of-years prison sentence that exceeds a [juvenile] defendant’s life expectancy violates the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution when it is imposed on a juvenile nonhomicide offender."
In Ohio, life expectancy in prison averages 58 years old. This means that every child sentenced to longer than 40 years for non-homicides in Ohio has a legitimate Eighth Amendment claim. This case will have vast impact on the long term sentencing of children. We owe a huge shout out to Rachel Bloomekatz, who was lead counsel in the case.
And if one amazing juvenile decision were not enough, the court ended mandatory bindover in Ohio. In State v. Aalim, the court concluded that mandatory bindovers of juveniles violate the Ohio Constitution. It is difficult to describe the scope of this win and how many children’s lives will benefit from it.
No longer can a prosecutor threaten years in adult prison simply by choosing how to charge the crime. Every child will have the right to show the court that he or she is amenable to rehabilitation and services within the juvenile justice system. And the shout out in this case goes to Amanda Powell who was lead counsel.
These two decisions reshape juvenile practice in Ohio. No longer will we needlessly throw children on the bonfire of criminal justice.