Arkansas’ highest court will follow a decision by the US Supreme Court concerning mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders.
Following a US Supreme Court decision from June of last year that abolished mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles, the Arkansas State Supreme Court has ordered a new sentencing hearing for Kuntrell Jackson, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole when he was 14. According to the Associate Press, Jackson’s case was one of the two presented to the US Supreme Court which led to their decision concerning the sentencing of juveniles.
The Arkansas Supreme Court Justices agreed unanimously on the decision concerning the resentencing of Jackson. Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote, “We agree with the State’s concession that Jackson is entitled to the benefit of the (U.S.) Supreme Court’s opinion in his own case.” Both US Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor pointed to Jackson’s case specifically in a separate opinion last year as well, stating that, “they would have gone even further than just getting rid of laws requiring mandatory life in prison without parole for juveniles like Jackson.” Breyer also said, “There is no basis for imposing a sentence of life without parole upon a juvenile who did not himself kill or intend to kill.” The Arkansas Justices also ruled that “Jackson may present evidence about his age and the nature of the crime during the hearing.”
27-year-old Jackson has been serving his sentence at a maximum security prison in Arkansas. He was sentenced to life in prison after an attempted robbery in 1999 lead to the shooting death of the store clerk. Jackson did not shoot the clerk himself, but because he was present, and participated in the attempted robbery he was convicted of capital murder and aggravated robbery and given the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Photo: Arkansas Department of Corrections