The Supreme Judicial Court declared it unconstitutional to sentence anyone under the age of 21 to life without the possibility of parole, citing brain development science and “contemporary standards of decency.”
The closely-watched 4-3 ruling, released Thursday morning, extended protections that have been in place for the better part of a decade for juveniles to slighter older “emerging adults.” It makes Massachusetts the first state in the nation to categorically reject life without parole for young adults, and comes through a sharply divided ruling by a court often known for its unanimous decisions.
“If there’s one thing that’s important, it’s that this isn’t one field of study that we’re relying on,” Ryan Schiff, one of Mattis’s attorneys, told the court in March. “Instead, there’s a convergence of evidence from multiple scientific disciplines and … most importantly real world data. We look at real world data for crime statistics, and also other kinds of risky behaviors in late adolescents, and what we see is that the stuff that we would expect to see from the laboratory studies actually is true in the real world.”