These Supreme Court cases have shaped the national legal debate around juvenile life without parole (JLWOP).


Roper v. Simmons (2005)


The Supreme Court banned  the death penalty for crimes committed as a juvenile. The death penalty for juveniles had not been implemented in the United States since the case of George Stinney, a 14-year-old African American boy who was convicted of killing two white girls and executed on June 16, 1944. He was posthumously exonerated of the crime.

Roper v. Simmons was also important because it cited new scientific evidence that the brains of children were less developed than adults, which would become a staple argument in future cases related to juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences. In the 5-4 opinion, the Court also ruled that a “national consensus” had formed against the execution of juveniles of any age.


Audio of the oral arguments in Roper v. Simmons. (57 minutes)

A brief discussion of the case on C-SPAN (3 minutes).

Justice Anthony Kennedy reads the majority opinion in the case (18 minutes).


Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida (2010)

The Supreme Court


Audio of the oral arguments in Graham v. Florida (58 minutes).

Bryan Stevenson, the attorney for Joe Sullivan, speaks after the oral argument in Sullivan v. Florida (3 minutes).

Justice Anthony Kennedy announces the Supreme Court opinion (7 minutes).


 Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs (2012)

The Supreme Court


Audio of the oral arguments in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs (47 minutes).

A report NPR’s All Things Considered on the day the Court announced the decision (4 minutes).

Opinion announcements by Justices Elena Kagan and Samuel Alito (13 minutes).


 Montgomery v. Louisiana (2015)

The Supreme Court


Audio of the oral arguments in Montgomery v. Louisiana (1 hour, 14 minutes).


A CBS News report on the day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court, Oct. 13, 2015 (3 minutes).

The Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 25, 2016 that Miller ruling applies retroactively. The opinion is forthcoming.