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SCOTUS Passes On Soledad Cross, Gives Juvenile Offenders Hope

Evening Edition

Above: Dan Eaton, an attorney at Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek, talks to KPBS about the recent Supreme Court decisions.

Aired 6/26/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guest: Dan Eaton, attorney, Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek

Transcript

Mt. Soledad Cross: The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal on Monday to review whether the cross on top of Mt. Soledad is unconstitutional means the case will come back to a lower court.

Last year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the memorial structure, which now sits on federal land, would have to undergo significant changes to avoid being taken down altogether. Supporters of the cross appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.

Local attorney Dan Eaton said that means a San Diego federal judge would now have to look at the cross again and decide the remedy in light of the Ninth Circuit ruling.

Glenn Smith, professor at California Western School of Law in San Diego, has said that the memorial would have to change so that a visitor "would not feel like the dominant figure is a Christian symbol."

Litigation has surrounded the structure for more than 20 years. In 1989 the cross was on city land. Two Vietnam veterans sued to keep the city from displaying the 43-foot-tall cross. Congress passed a law in 2006 making the land the cross sits on federal land.

The Supreme Court may take up the case later, once remedies have been proposed by the lower court.

Juveniles and Life Without Parole: The Supreme Court also ruled Monday that state laws making it mandatory to sentence juvenile offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole were unconstitutional.

The five-to-four vote declared that it was a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment to automatically send a juvenile to prison with no hope but to die there.

"A judge or jury must have the opportunity to consider mitigating circumstances before imposing the harshest possible penalty for juveniles," Justice Elena Kagan wrote.

Eaton said Kagan wants courts to look at juveniles individually to decide what the punishment should be, instead of implementing a mandatory life sentence.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | June 26, 2012 at 5 p.m. ― 2 years, 5 months ago

SCOTUS made the correct decision re: mandatory sentencing for juveniles.

I am firmly against mandatory sentences period.

Our justice system has traditionally been based on each individual case being decided on the specific circumstances regarding that case, with a judge taking into consideration both mitigating and aggravating circumstances.

This trend towards removing judicial power in favor of blanket guidelines by legislatures is a dangerous thing that is slowly deteriorating the fairness and integrity of the judicial system.

Create an appellate system for unfair sentencing in cases where a judge seems to be completely off-base where their sentencing can be evaluated by other judges instead of tying the hands of all judges based on rare extreme cases.

There is no need for these one-size fits all mandatory ridiculous laws.

( | suggest removal )