How old is a Juvenile Lifer?


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The U.S. Supreme Court, in the case Miller v. Alabama,  ruled that sentencing a juvenile to a mandatory sentence of life without parole is unconstitutional, violating the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The high court ruled that judges issuing sentences must consider the offender’s level of maturity and emotional development. Mandatory life without parole sentences are no longer legal, however the sentence can be imposed at the discretion of the judge.

Pennsylvania has the largest population of juveniles 17 years old and under sentenced to life without parole in the United States-480.  Philadelphia County has 150 juveniles sentenced to life without parole who are 17 or under. When Ed Rendell was the mayor of Philadelphia, he legislated that cases involving the death sentence or life without parole be tried by public defenders, not court appointed attorneys. Prior to that, judges appointed attorneys, often with little or no litigation experience. Even now, there aren’t enough resources to use public defenders exclusively.


© Mary DeWitt

At what age is someone classified a juvenile?

The U.S.Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to sentence juveniles  to mandatory life without parole.  

The Pennsylvania Constitution states that a juvenile is a child up to the age of 21 years old.

In addition to featuring juvenile lifers 17 and under, this site will show 18-21 year olds, a small representation of many who deserve to have their life without parole sentences vacated. Roxanne Severcool was sentenced at 17 years old, but What about Cyd Berger, Marilyn Dobrolenski and Avis Lee and many who deserve the same opportunity?