New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week that judges must consider factors such as age, immaturity, family environment, and peer pressure before sentencing juvenile offenders to lengthy sentences for violent crimes.
Some offenders are imprisoned for half a century or more for crimes they committed as minors, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision that bans life sentences for youth.
“We were thrilled … If you’re condemning children to die in prison you need to pay special attention to the things that make children different than adults,” said ACLU NJ senior staff attorney Alex Shalom, who represented two Essex County men, Ricky Zuber and James Comer in an appeal of separate convictions from their teenage years.
“It’s probably one of the most significant sentencing decisions by the New Jersey Supreme Court in many, many years,” said former State Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero.
The ACLU says it will work with the New Jersey Legislature to craft laws that reflects the ruling. The two men represented in the case will be resentenced under the new guidelines.
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