Can Real Justice Be Selective?

Posted on February 2, 2016 in Justice

Real Justice Offers Redemption to All
Last week, an important but little-publicized Supreme Court decision caught my attention. The Court ruled 6-3 in favor of a man who was given a life sentence without parole for killing a deputy sheriff in 1963. The man was seventeen years old at the time.

The issue at hand was whether the Court would make retroactive its 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama which struck down mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile murderers.

Juvenile justice advocates have argued, and the courts have agreed, that juveniles are “constitutionally different” because they are less mature and more impulsive. And because they are considered better candidates for rehabilitation than adults.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the Court’s majority opinion:

Those prisoners who have shown an inability to reform will continue to serve life sentences. The opportunity for release will be afforded to those who demonstrate the truth of Miller’s central intuition—that children who commit even heinous crimes are capable of change.

For what it’s worth, I support the original 2012 decision and the choice to make it retroactive to all current juvenile murder sentences. But the unstated implication is that, in the eyes of the law, once someone turns eighteen they are incapable of change. Beyond redemption.

God’s will is that none would perish and all come to repentance. Real justice offers redemption to all.


I wonder if our society, which is not submitted to the authority of God, can rightly judge a human life to be beyond redemption.


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I have supported the death penalty and permanent imprisonment. There is biblical precedent for capital punishment. Yet I wonder if our society, which is not submitted to the authority of God, can rightly judge a human life to be beyond redemption.

I agree with giving juvenile murderers a second chance. And the Supreme Court’s decision does not mean underage murderers bear no responsibility. But I struggle with a nineteen year old or a thirty year old not having the same opportunity for mercy and a second chance if they have shown the desire and willingness to reform.

I wonder what Moses, David, or Paul would say about murder being a life disqualifier.

What say you?


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