Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences of juveniles convicted of homicide were, broadly speaking, unconstitutional. The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments, and according to the justices nearly a decade ago, the idea of imposing a life sentence on a minor was a bridge too far.
That said, the ruling did not impose a flat ban, instead leaving open the possibility of such sentences in narrow instances. Yesterday, as NBC News reported, the high court revisited the issue.
The Supreme Court declined Thursday to impose new restrictions on sentencing juvenile offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole. By a 6-3 vote, the court upheld a life sentence for a Mississippi man, Brett Jones, who was 15 when he used a knife to kill his grandfather during an argument.
The ruling was written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh -- one of Donald Trump's three picks for the high court -- who suggested the decision was based on existing precedent. Justice Sonia Sotomayor appeared eager to remind him otherwise.
The effects of the ruling are plainly brutal. Slate's Mark Joseph Stern pulled no punches, explaining that the Supreme Court's conservative majority "effectively reinstated juvenile life without parole by shredding precedents that had sharply limited the sentence in every state. Justice Brett Kavanaugh's majority opinion in Jones v. Mississippi is one of the most dishonest and cynical decisions in recent memory."
But as Rachel emphasized on the show last night, let's not brush past the irony of the circumstances: Brett Kavanaugh wrote the ruling?
In case anyone needs a refresher about the events of 2018, after Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court, he faced accusations of sexual misconduct from, among others, psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford. It was Ford who ultimately told senators under oath about an alleged incident in which Kavanaugh, at the age of 17, sexually assaulted her during a high school house party.
The conservative jurist denied the claims, and Senate Republicans confirmed him anyway.
Three years later, Kavanaugh, of all people, wrote the ruling that said American kids can receive life sentences without the possibility of parole. It was Kavanaugh, himself credibly accused of having committed sexual assault as a teen, who authored the decision that concluded that other teenagers can receive a sentence so severe that they will never again see the un-incarcerated light of day.
Were there really no other justices who could've taken the lead on this one?