Nationwide, more than 2,200 juveniles under the age of 18 are serving life sentences—dozens were 13-14 at the time of their offense, according to a report by Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a nonprofit legal-assistance organization founded by Bryan Stevenson.
Michael “Little B” Lewis, at age 13, was labeled a super predator by a sociologist and called a cold-blooded thug by prosecutors, WSB-TV Atlanta reported.
According to WSB-TV, Lewis walked up to a parked car at an Atlanta convenience store in 1997 and shot Darrell Woods, a stranger, in front of his two sons.
Lewis has spent more continuous time incarcerated (he’s now in a supermax facility designed for death row inmates) “than any person starting his sentence as a 13-year-old in prison in our entire country,” reports Daily Kos blogger Shaun King.
When an argument over a toy ended in the death of his stepbrother, 14-year-old Missouri native Quantel Lotts was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2000.
Fourteen-year-old Antonio Nuñez was picked up at a party and got into a car with two men nearly twice his age. One of the men later claimed to be a kidnap victim. When their car was chased by the police and shots were fired, Antonio was arrested and convicted of aggravated kidnapping, along with the 27-year-old driver, and sentenced to life in prison in 2003.
In 2008, Stevenson’s EJI issued a report that found 19 states incarcerated 73 children who are 13 and 14 years of age and have a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. EJI noted that the U.S. is the only country in the world where a 13-year-old could receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
According to EJI, many young children in America are imperiled by abuse, neglect, domestic and community violence, and poverty. Without effective intervention and help, these children suffer, struggle and fall into despair and hopelessness. Some young teens cannot manage the emotional, social and psychological challenges of adolescence and eventually engage in destructive and violent behavior.
Kuntrell Jackson was sentenced to life in prison in 2003 after being convicted of a video store robbery and murder committed when he was 14 years old. The state of Arkansas sentenced Jackson despite the prosecutor’s concession that he was not the one who killed the video store clerk, EJI reported.
On June 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger convicted of homicide are unconstitutional.
In light of that ruling the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a resentencing hearing for Jackson. In 2014, Jackson, by then 28, was resentenced to 20 years and is currently serving his time in a maximum-security unit in Arkansas.
“Many young children in America are imperiled by
abuse, neglect, domestic and community violence, and poverty”
The Nevada Supreme Court has struck down sentences of life without the possibility of parole for juveniles. Such punishments, the court ruled, are a “denial of hope,” and “it means that good behavior and character improvement are immaterial; it means that whatever the future might hold in store for the mind and spirit of [the defendant], he will remain in prison for the rest of his days.”
EJI agrees and has stated that condemning young children to die in prison is cruel and incompatible with fundamental standards of decency that require protection for children.
EJI litigates on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders; people wrongly convicted or charged with violent crimes, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct, according to its website (www.eji.org).