Tennessee Supreme Court declares life sentence for juvenile homicide offender unconstitutional

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Friday that life sentences for juvenile homicide offenders is cruel and unusual punishment, making it unconstitutional.
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Friday that life sentences for juvenile homicide offenders is cruel and unusual punishment, making it unconstitutional.
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 3:43 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Friday that life sentences for juvenile homicide offenders is cruel and unusual punishment, making it unconstitutional.

The ruling comes from a Knox County case where in which Tyshon Booker was convicted of felony murder and especially aggravated robbery. In a close ruling, the court did not change Booker’s 60-year life sentence ruling but will offer him a parole hearing after he has served between 25 and 36 years.

Tennessee’s automatic 51 to 60-year life sentence for juvenile homicide offenders is an outlier in the nation; it is the only state to have a mandatory sentence of more than 50 years for a juvenile offense.

In almost half of the states, juvenile offenders are eligible for release or sentenced to 25 years or less. Even more states allow release eligibility after 35 years.

Justice Jeff Bivins and Chief Justice Roger Page dissented from the ruling, saying, in their opinion, constitutional violations should be deffered to the legislative branch.