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Submitted 1:17 p.m.
12.17.2014
Letter to the Editor

In focusing on Adnan’s case, Serial host Sarah Koenig highlighted a number of issues related to the practice of sentencing children to life without parole. ”

Jeff Howard of Chicago, IL

If these lawyers were his jury, they would be hung on the decision of whether or not Adnan is guilty. Instead, he has been in prison since 1999, when he was a 17-year-old child. Unless something changes dramatically, Adnan will die in there.

Adnan was sentenced to life plus 30 years. But release on parole for a life-sentence is almost non-existent in Maryland. Parole recommendations in Maryland must be approved by the governor. In the past decade, no one serving a life sentence in Maryland has been approved for parole. So there is little meaningful difference in Adnan’s sentence and life without parole.

In focusing on Adnan’s case, Serial host Sarah Koenig highlighted a number of issues related to the practice of sentencing children to life without parole. The United States is alone in imprisoning children without parole. There are approximately 2,500 individuals serving life without parole for crimes committed as kids and thousands of others who received sentences like Adnan’s Like Adnan, most teens who receive these extreme sentences are youth of color. Many kids who received these extreme sentence were represented by lawyers who had no experience in dealing with the specific needs of youthful defendants.

Adnan’s case demonstrates how children differ from adults. The U.S. Supreme Court, recognizing these developmental differences, has scaled back the use of extreme sentences for children. The Court also has said that the unique characteristics of childhood -- such as children’s susceptibility to peer pressure, increased impetuosity and inability to judge risk and consequences in the same way as adults – must be considered in the context of sentencing. None of these factors were considered when Adnan was sentenced to die in prison.

The series will end on Thursday. Regardless of the finale, Adnan remains in prison, as do the thousands of other kids who received sentences like his. If only the solution were as simple as pulling together a few lawyers to talk informally.

Jeff Howard Legal Director Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth fairsentencingofyouth.org

 
These letters written in response to
Feature December 10, 2014
The lawyers favor acquittal.