NPR, Marshall, Seventeen Year discussed on On Point with Tom Ashbrook | Podcasts

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Of the Ted Radio Hour from NPR on our latest episode were exploring anger what it is when you feel it whether some get to feel it more openly than others and why listen now this is on point I'm Meghna Chakrabarti we're talking this hour about the case of Lee Boyd Malveaux he was one of the DC snipers back in two thousand and two he was seventeen at the time when he received multiple life sentences for those murders his case now before the United States Supreme Court where he is asking for a reassessment or a chance at another sentencing hearing because the core Shen is what constitutes justice in these cases of juveniles convicted of murder should they ever be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole well I'm joined today by Marshall Levick she's chief counsel and founder of the Juvenile Law Center Public Interest Law firm that's been advocating for children's rights since nineteen seventy five and she's been a a key legal voice in several of the other cases at least one of the other cases that has previously appeared before the court on these matters so let's go quickly to the phones let's go to Sean calling from Charleston South Carolina Hello I just wanted to say I I work in the correction system around seventeen years on a regular basis and before I did that I would have the view that she has or a lot of people have they shouldn't have life sentences but haven't been exposed to them on a regular basis they're they're young men they're not children are boys anymore they're very very mature they're very aware of the crimes that they commit in the situations that they put themselves in a lot of them frankly are proud of the things that they do I just I absolutely feel that they're they're old enough they know what they're doing they're making the choices that they are and there will be willing to accept the complex the the consequences that come with it and they're they're okay with it frankly I mean it's it's it doesn't even seem to fade as them you know when they're looking at fifteen or twenty years we tell whenever it's fifteen or twenty but you know I've done so much here and I'll do half their day it'll be out like ten eight and the being ballroom at seventy well Sean thank you so much for your call and your perspective there and Marsha Levick I'm just want to piggyback off Shawn's observation here and wind back the clock back to that two thousand twelve Miller v Alabama case that appeared before the court that upheld that mandatory life senses without the possibility of parole for juveniles was unconstitutional and Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion in that case and here's a clip from what I read from the bench in June of two thousand twelve think of the worst possible seventeen year old murderer perhaps a seventy in your old who previously was convicted of several murders was tried in family court and has resisted any attempt at rehabilitation where think of the seventeen year old a seventeen and a half year old perhaps who goes to school and guns down a dozen or more teachers and students the opinion the court delicately refers to all murderers under the magic age of eighteen as children and holds every single one of these children must given a chance to persuade judge to impose a lesser sentence Justice Samuel Alito in two thousand twelve? Marshall isn't as as you said this is one of the core question like is there a magic age here does it have to be in the justice system well I think that let let me just take a moment respond though to the to the issues that were raised by the caller and even by Justice Alito comments because I think that focusing on how someone behaves if the agent seventeen what we observe about at the age of seventeen is actually precisely the point of these cases and that is that how the appeared seventeen is not at all and not necessary early who they will be twenty five thirty five forty five fifty five years old and it is impossible to ignore the science whether it's the neuroscience the social science that really conclusively establishes this capacity for Change and to the concern that someone has committed a horrible crime at the age of seventeen we should never contemplate letting them out we need to keep in mind that when we talk about providing this opportunity to be eligible for parole it is not a ticket out of jail that at that moment when someone goes before the Parole Board the Parole Board has to ask itself questions and frankly ask that individual wins that will go to whether or not they have matured whether or not they have accepted the consequences whether or not they have demonstrated rehabilitation whether or not they are able and ready to return to their communities in many instances that won't happen that's precisely what Justice Kennedy recognized in his two thousand ten decision prohibiting without parole and non homicide cases we all understand in this space that many of these young men and women won't get out of prison even as they go before a parole board but we Augmon for the scientific recognition the scientific finding about this capacity for change and as we think about as I said sort of you know what is this search tell us going forward it does raise questions that I think we need to be having a conversation about that it's probably not a magic boundary at eighteen that the same aspects of immaturity the characteristics of maturity that we see in youth under the age of eighteen they often carry forward many individuals past the age of eighteen and certainly brain development continues and as we contemplate again as you as you said at the opening of the segment contemplate what does justice mean what is the purpose of our justice system we need to be thinking about again where research might take us as we try to ensure that we are serving justice so let me ask you Marcia I mean what do you think justice means in these cases because I mean by definition yes I mean neuroscience this showing us the the youth brain not only has the capacity for change it changes dramatically but if we're speaking of justice writ large I mean isn't the conclusion that that everyone does have regardless of age everyone does have the capacity to change and if so what does what does that mean for the hire process or or act of sentencing in in these most terrible crimes well I think that the capacity for changes different and so we know that capacity for change among young people again let's say individuals under the age of twenty five in most strongly individuals under the age of eighteen that's a that's a capacity for change that is especially dynamic that the kinds of judgments and decisions that they make think about ourselves as teenagers if my daughter's teenagers not so long ago the kinds of judgments that young people make appear in the moment they will say sometimes I know exactly what doing so it can appear as if there is some thoughtfulness behind the decisions that they make but we know that there isn't and so I think that this while yes it's true everyone can change and I think we want to believe that everyone can change as we grow older ourselves as we examine ourselves we may want to change aspects parts of ourselves even so but I think that we're we're talking a little bit about apples and oranges and when we think about the the possibility for rehabilitation Asian and real transformation of character that that is something that really is unique to a particular segment of the population it's the young population in this country let's go to Christine who's calling from Buffalo New York Christine you're on the Air Hi thank you for taking my call I was actually a freshman at George Washington University the network has happened and to this day I'm still afraid of white conversion man so I just think I'm so glad that you were talking about this topic because I I'm from New York we just had the raise the age past and I think a really important distinction is the difference between violent and nonviolent crimes and how I think it's a really slippery slope when you start opening the idea of changing you know mandatory life sentences for violent crimes because then it kind of opens the door for everything and you know it's not like some kid that was in jail the drug offence or a you know robbery or something like that that was not violent like this was calculated murder of multiple people and he terrorized the city and I think you can't like like your guest saying apples to oranges you can't compare These type of calculated island crimes like a non violent crime will Christine thank you so much for your call Marsh Likud like to respond to Christine sure let me say first of all I have certainly many friends who were in DC in two thousand when who are still there and I I understand completely appreciate the fear not only that you and your friends and family members felt them but of course what people continue to caller remember about that time but I think that the Supreme Court went it really rolled in Miller striking mandatory life without parole sentences what Justice Kennedy sorry which this Kagan said was that that there was no reason to treat the science differently though scientific findings differently with respect to individuals who commit violent crimes nonviolent crimes and while I think that we live in a culture that is highly retributive we think about again this question what is justice many of us in this country think about justices really being about punishment and revenge and when something horrible happens we want to do something horrible in return but I think that is we volve honest we think about what our values should be certainly from my perspective I think that our values need to include for certain populations not only consideration for retribution but also again this opportunity for rehabilitation this opportunity for second chances and to recall again I think that we it's it's wrong to inflate the idea of eliminating life without parole sentences that prohibit someone from ever getting out of prison from giving them an opportunity to be to be considered for release because as I said many of those individuals won't get relief many of those individuals who committed perhaps the most brutal the most heinous violent crimes may never be candidates for release but but we cannot know that when they're seventeen or sixteen or fifteen and two I believe to to meet this goal of justice in our society we need to be willing to reexamine those individuals said a later point in time the thing about cases like Malveaux says is that it brings these core questions about what is justice regarding juvenile and murdering people from you know as snipers so yes in in ability of parole but the bigger picture also is that other youth offenders get similar sentences for very different kinds of crimes right so so let me turn now to Marshawn Allen who joins us from Chicago Illinois because he when he was fifteen years old he was sentenced to life without parole he was involved in a drug deal and robbery that ended in a man being killed marshawn Allen didn't pull the trigger but he was charged with two counts of fifteen a first degree murder ended up being released in two thousand sixteen after serving twenty five years because of one of the Supreme Court's decisions the Miller v Alabam Emma decision so marshawn ellen welcome to you can you hear me precisely right and I think that your comments really underscored this principle that the exception can't make the role and it is hard to have a conversation about a more generous or lenient view of sentencing of adolescents teenagers who commit even homicide crimes and about it in the context of Lee Boyd Malvo which is which is a horrific incident that we hope will never be repeated I think in Martians case there are many individuals across the country just like him who did not pull the trigger who might have been present at the time when a crime was committed in the course of that crime and the victim died at somebody else's hands they were sentenced identically to the individual who was directly responsible for that murder and that is an enormous travesty of justice that goes on every Day in my state of Pennsylvania we many individuals who were sentenced to life without parole mandatory sentences of.

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