Criminal Law Paper /Recent Supreme Court Case: Jackson v. Hobbs - Sentencing Requirements and Juveniles

Criminal Law Paper /Recent Supreme Court Case: Jackson v. Hobbs - Sentencing Requirements and Juveniles

Arguably, a model rehabilitated juvenile prisoner can be described by juvenile counselors as an ex-offender who comes out of prison with clear goals aimed at getting him/her ready to face the challenges of sustaining life as a productive citizen in our civilized society. In the past, the criminal justice system has employed some programs aimed at rehabilitating juvenile offenders allowing them to receive some form of educational incentives, vocational training, and psychological assessments. The aim was to assist them with obtaining some of the necessities they will need to pursue real life goals after prison.

According to www.sentencing, “there has been a troubling shift in the nation’s responses to at-risk youth over the past 25 years. The creators of the juvenile justice system originally viewed it as a system for providing prevention, protection, and redirection to youth, but it is more common for juveniles today to experience tough sanctions and adult-type punishments instead (2012).” In an examination of current cases being heard or considered by the Supreme Court, it was discovered that there are a disturbing amount of juveniles as young as 14 years old, currently in the penal system facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. According to, “there are only 73 current LWOP inmates who were convicted for crimes they committed when they were 14 and nine others who were convicted when they were younger (” ABC news raised the question in a recent article asking “is life without parole for juvenile murderers unconstitutional?”

This report will examine the Jackson v. Hobbs case which involves, Kuntrell Jackson who was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for felony murder that occurred in 1999 less than three weeks after his 14th birthday. Jackson did not pull the trigger, but he was charged as an adult (”

An examination of the criminal law violated will be revealed along with the jurisdiction where the law was violated as it relates to the general rules of law. Key components as to the legal questions in terms of accomplice liability, criminal liability and the difference between actus reus and means rea will be examined as to how they relate to the cases.

In examining this case, it was discovered that most of Jackson’s defense is arguably being tied to his age and development. There are also arguments that imply his mental state and intended actions should not be subjected to criminal codes reserved for adult offenders. The ABC news website enlists arguments from an Equal Justice Initiative advocate Bryan A. Stevenson who is representing Jackson arguing “juveniles, especially of the age of 13 and 14, are different from adults. Stevens asserts “they are "neurologically, hormonally, and emotionally hard-wired for sensation-seeking, impulsivity, poor foresight, worse judgment, and control failure," and they should have at least a chance at parole (”. Arguably, an examination of the components of “means rea” may lend some support to Stevenson’s assertions. According to Schmalleger, Hall, & Dolatowski, “mens rea is the second general element of crime. The term, which literally means “guilty mind,” refers to the specific mental state of the defendant at the time of the crime (pg 44, 2010).” The Juvenile Justice Center of Washington D.C. “as a society, we recognize the limitations of adolescents and, therefore, restrict their privileges to vote, serve on a jury, consume alcohol, marry, enter into contracts, and even watch movies with mature content. Each year, the United States spends billions of dollars to promote drug use prevention and sex education to protect youth at this vulnerable stage of life. When it comes to the death penalty, however, we treat them as fully functioning adults (2004))” These recognized precautions aimed at youths may contain some of the rules inherit in common law that could influence the court’s decision impacting hundreds of juvenile presently imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole. Although, the facts prove Jackson participated to some extent in the commission of the crime; he did not pull the trigger? Even if one was to apply the rules surrounding accomplish liability, the fact that he was only 13 old should be taken into consideration. The argument that sentencing a child to life in prison without parole is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment should be duly considered carries some validity. While there may be a consensus that the youth should face consequences for his actions, the questions remains as to how stringent the penalty should be. The court will have the dubious task of measuring the facts and concluding based on the written rules of law. It can be argued, since there are not written rules guidelines protecting juveniles, the fate of Jackson and many others like him may impact the criminal justice system for years to come. On March 20, 2012, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Jackson v. Hobbs, along with Miller v. Alabama. According to Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, “if a positive decision is handed down in these cases, it may provide an opportunity for relief for the current 228 juveniles serving life without parole for homicides offenses in the state of Louisiana alone (” The ruling by the Supreme Court could also signal special consideration of different rules of law when being applied to serious juvenile offenses.

Society develops laws and punishments to maintain necessary control in societies as they grow more and more complex. Its’ youthful offenders who break these laws should face consequences for serious offenses. On the hand, they should be offered opportunities that will not lead to a life of crime. One can argue the rational method for deciding whether or not to engage in criminal activity should be in the hands of every individual and the choices they make as citizens. However, although this rule is a good one for adults who engage in crimes, many critics argues it should not apply to youth because of their stages of development. (

Additionally, they should be expected to abide by the laws of their local and state governments. The juvenile detention centers can help save and encourage the offenders through the use of tested social learning models. Youthful offenders who choose the help will ultimately stay on the proper path in life by not giving into criminal activity that could lead them into adult penal systems where the punishments and experiences can be far more complex than any juvenile correctional facility.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Juvenile Death Penalty Adolescence, Brain Development and Legal Culpability. (January, 2004). Retrieved from

Hall, J.D., ED.D., D., Schmallager, PhD., F., & Dolatowski, J.D., J. (2010). Criminal Law Today (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hal.

Kelly, J. (November. 2011). Supreme Court Again Takes up Juvenile Life Without Parole. Retrieved from

Miller & Jackson: Updates from the U.S. Supreme Court. (March, 2012). Retrieved from

Research and Advocacy for Reform. (April 24, 2012). Retrieved from
deVogue, A. (March 14, 2012). Juvenile Murderer: Is Life Without Parole Unconstitutional? Retrieved from