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Supreme Court May Review Life Sentence Given to 13-Year-Old

What crime would a 13-year-old have to commit to warrant a life sentence? For Joe Sullivan, a conviction for raping a 72-year-old woman was good enough. Twenty years later, his lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to throw out the sentence as cruel and unusual punishment.

The New York Times reports that only eight people in the world are serving life sentences for a crime committed at the age of 13, and all of them are in the United States.

When striking down the death penalty for teenagers in 2005, the Supreme Court said that compared to adults, teens are less mature, more impulsive, more susceptible to peer pressure and more likely to change for the better over time. Do you think the same logic should be used to abolish life sentences for teens, giving Joe Sullivan a chance to someday appeal to the parole board?


lickety-split lickety-split 8 years
anyone want him living next door to them?
legalbeagle legalbeagle 8 years
If he is mentally disabled he should have never been sentenced to life in prison. He should have been given psychiatric care and this specific case should definetly be reviewed. In some cases it makes perfect sense to sentence someone as young as 13 to life in prison because they have the capacity to form intent to commit the crime as an adult would. Some crimes are so heinous that there would be public outrage if the DAs office didnt seek life sentences. But if you believe that the criminal justice system should be a place where criminals can be rehabilitated- then it doesnt make sense to sentence a 13 year old to life in prison. If you were 13 when you went into prison, youre certainly not the same person you were when youre 45. At the same time, you have to consider whether or not sexual offenders can actually be rehablitated. As a few people have pointed out, many adult sex offenders are repeat offenders no matter how much jail time they get. So why should we let someone (who isnt mentally disabled) who is a sexual predator at the age of 13 back out into society so they can have a lifetime of going in and out of the system for repeat offenses? Its a really interesting subject and brings to light many of the flaws in our criminal justice system in general.
genesisrocks genesisrocks 8 years
CaterpillarGirl, do you know if they made a Law & Order: SUV episode based on this case? It seems really familiar.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
I could maybe see if it was murder, and although I know that Rape is a crime of power.violance it is still deemed a sex crime. Any 13 year old who is committing a sex crime against anyone especially an elder you have to think there is something deeply wrong, something a lifetime in jail isn't going to help. The pupose of the justice system should not only be to punish but to rehabilitate. The system has cracks that need to be mended because like someone said early I don't understand how adult pedophiles ( especially multiple offenders) get out of jail!
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
I've always felt that punishment in this manner for children was outrageous. Children are the strongest candidates for rehabilitation. They're minds are the most pliable and behavior most correctable and to toss them in an environment where all of that is left to degradation & chance IMO is ignorant and yet another ward the state can ill afford, but more importantly a life wasted by our choosing. I forget which post I mentioned this on some time last week but I strongly strongly recommend to anyone interested look into Dr. Amen of the Amen Clinic. He is a brain scan specialist and quite possibly the top authority in his field. I'm reading a book called (A Magnificent Mind At Any Age) and the section which explains his therapy and how he uses brain scans he gives real life examples of how he completely changed peoples lives. The before & after photos of the subjects brains are amazing. Quite related to this case one of his subjects was a young man who nearly beat another boy to death. He was criminally charged of course and was facing 25yrs., the parents sent the boy to Dr. Amen and the Dr. identified to the court that a particular area of the boys brain was under developed and because this area is underdeveloped his impulse to act out in such a manner is amplified. The boy was released to therapy rather than 25yrs behind bars and his life has changed for the better. There are many other examples of people from all walks of life suffering different situations but this one just suited the article. Knowing this now IMO there is simply no excuse not to consider corrective brain therapy.
Jazz-Z Jazz-Z 8 years
The information provided by Citizen indicates she was raped not murdered and if the boy was mentally disturbed perhaps he shouldn't have been give a prison sentence at all, but sent to a psych ward for ten years and then probation.
chatondeneige chatondeneige 8 years
I'm with Jude, I'm so horrified by this crime that I realize I'm not thinking straight about it.
Michelann Michelann 8 years
Although I don't know the details of the incident or the trial, it seems as though this sentence was somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction due to the perversity of the crime. It certainly sounds a little excessive.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
The crime, and the age at which it was committed, are so shocking that I'm not sure how I feel about this :o
starangel82 starangel82 8 years
I think it is a case by case basis. Sounds like this case there are some circumstances that need to be considered. I'm not saying what he did wasn't wrong, but if he is truly mentally ill then it could have a huge affect on why he did committed the crime. It makes me wonder if this kid is getting the treatment he needs in prison so if he does get a change in sentencing that he'll be able to come out into society as a rehabilitated person.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 8 years
umm after reading the article especially their stories at the end, i am just outraged. it's so sad that you go from such an abusive life, into another dangerous life, if they ever do get out of jail, what chance do they have of being rehabilitated and living a normal life??
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 8 years
yuck CGit does, I mean if I could get away with a crime by being state's witness you bet I would lie through my teeth. This is why I find the justice system, worldwide, to be a travesty, it's like convict, convict, convict and it's usually the innocent that get screwed and the guilty who triumph over the system.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years good article on the subject. including examples.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
No Nyara he isnt....makes you think he was the real perpetrator doesnt it.
margokhal margokhal 8 years
Raping anyone, much less a 72-year-old, much less doing it at the age of 13, I would consider serious enough to warrant a life sentence. It may be cruel, but I don't find it "unusual" punishment...what he DID was "unusual"! If he is "rehabilitated" when he gets older/more mature/an adult, then he should have the possibility to appeal to the board for parole, though. I'd be interested in the number of people given the *death penalty* for crimes committed at 13 or younger, which I think points to a more serious issue. I doubt that that only happens [if it does happen] in the US.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 8 years
seriously CG, and no one has questioned this case till now?? Well that just paints this case in a different light. so what happened to the other boy, he's not in jail right?
stephley stephley 8 years
No civilized society should be sentencing young teenagers to death.
KadBunny KadBunny 8 years
Holy crap. The rape itself is cruel and unusual.. but at the same time the punishment seems excessive. Then again the brat deserves it. Then again, that's just it--he's a brat; just a kid--and clearly a disturbed one. Omg that's a toughie. :\ I'd say 10 years or so and a hell of a lot of therapy. Life sentence will just ruin him more; they might as well just give him the death sentence.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
In this case, Joe was a mentally disabled young man, who was accused by another boy (who had broken into the home with Joe) of the crime (raping the elderly woman) Joe was dropped off ALONE at the police department to face questioning by himself. No legal council present at interrogation. I say YES review this please. ANd to all others....its a case by case basis whether they should be reviewed or not.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 8 years
What annoys me is that grown men are out there repeatedly molesting boys and girls, getting thrown into jail, being released early, and going out and doing it again. Even cold blooded killers get shoddy sentences. What this boy did was heinous but seriously a life sentence?? i think 15-25 would have been appropriate.
flyingroo flyingroo 8 years
He should not spend life in prison, he should be released at 72...
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I see nothing wrong with giving a 13yr old a life sentence for murder, but I think this might be a little excessive. Of course, we aren't getting all the facts of the case.
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