Sometimes the Supreme Court gets it wrong. In the case of Bobby Bostic, the mistake will likely cost him his life in prison.
The court refused to hear the appeal of Bostic, a Missouri man who committed a series of robberies and participated in a kidnapping when he was 16 years old. Bostic, has been in jail for 21 years and will not be eligible for parole until he is 112 years old — effectively a life sentence.
Science has demonstrated that adolescent brains are different from adult brains.
Young people can be more volatile, more susceptible to peer influence, bigger risk takers, and less future-oriented. These factors led the Supreme Court to rule in Graham v. Florida, that the “Constitution prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide.”
Some of the nation’s leading prosecutors weighed in on Bostic’s case and urged the court to follow its own precedent.
Even the judge who put Bostic in jail has since called that sentence a mistake and expressed her regret as she publicly urged the court to hear the case. Instead, the court chose to bow out and allow this deeply troubling result to stand.
But the court isn’t the only influential player when it comes to sentencing juveniles. And with anticipated changes to the composition of the Supreme Court, relying on judicial intervention in this area is increasingly uncertain.