The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision to affirm a judge does not have to find a defendant beyond rehabilitation to issue a life without parole sentence to a juvenile convicted of murder.
In a 6-3 decision along conservative-liberal lines, the decision upheld the sentence of Brett Jones. Jones was convicted in the stabbing death of a 68-year-old man when he was 15 years old.
The decision focused on whether Jones was considered permanently incorrigible or could be rehabilitated. The court determined the determination was not necessary as the basis for a lifetime sentence without parole.
Mississippi is one of only six states that does not require permanent incorrigibility for a life sentence without parole.
“Jones’ argument that the sentence must make a finding of permanent incorrigibility is inconsistent with the court’s precedents,” wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh. “The court’s precedents do not require an on-the-record sentencing explanation with an implicit finding of permanent incorrigibility.”
In 2012, the court disallowed life sentences without parole for minors except in murder cases.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Jones will become eligible for conditional release at 60 years of age. Jones’ lawyer had sought an earlier chance at parole based on his client’s rehabilitation and earning of his high school diplomas while incarcerated.
The ruling revealed the deep conservative-liberal divide on many issues in the Supreme Court. Three of the court’s nine justices were added during the four years former President Donald Trump served in the White House.