ILNews

Students examine juvenile justice in U.N. report

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

For the past few years, groups of students at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis’ International Human Rights Law Society, with encouragement from the school’s Program in International Human Rights Law, have been working on and presenting various reports on human rights issues to experts who work for the United Nations.

While they don’t actually present their reports during meetings of the U.N. General Assembly or Human Rights Council, they have had luck in having private meetings with experts who can meet with policy makers and ask the tough questions of countries violating those rights.

The latest report from the students is “The United States of America: Juvenile Life without Parole,” which the group submitted to the Human Rights Council on April 19.

The 11 students who worked on the report, led by 2L Bobby Y. Lydon-Lam, researched the sentencing laws for juveniles in all 50 states. They then pooled and distilled their research into a six-page report that was submitted for the Universal Periodic Review Session. Those hearings, which will take place in late 2010, will discuss how the U.S. is following international human rights standards set by the U.N.
 

bobby lam-lydon Lydon-Lam

The report claims the U.S. is violating a number of U.N. conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Following their research, LL.M. candidate Ntsika W. Fakudze of Swaziland was surprised to learn about the variation from state to state when it comes to how each state handles juvenile offenders in situations where the juveniles can be tried as adults and sentenced to life without parole.

“From an international perspective, it was interesting to see the implications involved in cases involving juveniles and the way legislation is evolving and changing in different states,” he said.

James R. Smerbeck, a 1L, was also surprised to see it wasn’t necessarily a nationwide problem because most of the 2,574 cases in 2009, according to Human Rights Watch, weren’t evenly distributed among the states that allow life without parole for juveniles.

Ann Marie Judson-Patrick, also a 1L, was surprised to see that the states were proposing different legislation to either make the sentencing guidelines looser or stricter, depending on the state. She added that some states were considering how coercion by the offenders’ peers was also factored into sentencing legislation the states were considering.

On the other hand, Evelyn Aero, an LL.M. candidate from Uganda, said she was surprised there wasn’t much litigation around the issue of sentencing juveniles to life imprisonment.

“I would think strategic litigation would make an impact,” she added.

Lydon-Lam, who studied Indiana’s juvenile justice laws for the report, said Indiana was doing well compared to other states.

He said there were some crimes where, if committed by someone under 18, were automatically tried as if the juvenile was an adult, but Indiana courts seem to have a lot of discretion that many other states’ courts don’t have. He added that while Indiana is one of 15 states that allows a judge to sentence a juvenile offender to life without parole, there were only two such cases where it has happened.

Among the solutions the group presented in the report were to eliminate life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes committed by offenders who are under 18 years old, to reflect on scientific studies about the psychological development of juveniles, to emphasize rehabilitation and education for juvenile offenders, and “to retroactively apply these recommendations to juveniles currently serving life without parole.”

The students also noted that there are two yet-to-be-determined cases before the Supreme Court of the United States on this issue that address whether sentencing juveniles to life without parole violated the Eighth Amendment, regarding cruel and unusual punishment.

Those cases were heard Nov. 9, 2009: Sullivan v. Florida¸ No. 08-7621, and Graham v. Florida, No. 08-7412. If they are decided before the review in Geneva later this year, that could have an impact on how the hearings go, the students said.

Joe Sullivan was sentenced to life without parole when he was age 13 for sexual battery of an older woman. Sullivan, who is mentally disabled, was accused of the crime by someone else who was with him earlier that day and served a lesser sentence. Sullivan was 33 at the time of the oral argument.

In Graham, Terrance Graham was 16 years old when he pleaded guilty to attempted armed robbery and armed burglary. In exchange for his plea, he was sentenced to three years probation. At 17, Graham admitted he had violated probation by missing his curfew, and a trial judge also found him guilty of a home invasion robbery, and sentenced him to life without parole for the armed burglary charge from when he was 16. Graham was 22 at the time of the oral argument.

Florida countered in its response brief to Graham, that “Florida’s system reserves adult criminal court only for a small percentage of juveniles committing crimes; namely, those who demonstrate that they are ill-suited for progressive juvenile programs because they committed the most serious of criminal offenses, are older teens, or demonstrated that they are unable or unwilling to benefit from the juvenile system by continuing to commit crimes.”

In the case of Sullivan, Florida’s response brief stated, “This case presents no basis for upsetting long-established state post-conviction procedures because Sullivan’s federal constitutional claim could have been asserted at trial and on direct appeal.” The brief also criticized Sullivan’s claim that his sentence violated international law.

While there’s no guarantee the report will have an impact on its own, the students were optimistic and proud of their work.

“If countries aren’t taking care of human rights violations, it’s up to advocates to step up,” Fakudze said. “You have to bring those issues to the table and talk about them in the right forums.”

It is also a welcome change from their class work.

“To be able to do something like this as a 1L, it’s pretty exciting to participate in something outside of the classroom where we’re doing legal research and writing,” said Javeneh Nekoomaram. “In class, we have lots of guidance and supervision, but for this we had to make sure everything was accurate.”

Other students who worked on the report included John L. Tao, who will lead next year’s shadow reports team for the organization; Leontiy V. Korolev; Saira N. Latif; Kalli Dee McBride; and Samantha K. Sledd.

While the students came up with the subject matter and conducted the research, it was endorsed by George Edwards, director of the Program in International Human Rights Law. •

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. OK, take notice. Those wondering just how corrupt the Indiana system is can see the picture in this post. Attorney Donald James did not criticize any judges, he merely, it would seem, caused some clients to file against him and then ignored his own defense. James thus disrespected the system via ignoring all and was also ordered to reimburse the commission $525.88 for the costs of prosecuting the first case against him. Yes, nearly $526 for all the costs, the state having proved it all. Ouch, right? Now consider whistleblower and constitutionalist and citizen journalist Paul Ogden who criticized a judge, defended himself in such a professional fashion as to have half the case against him thrown out by the ISC and was then handed a career ending $10,000 bill as "half the costs" of the state crucifying him. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/ogden-quitting-law-citing-high-disciplinary-fine/PARAMS/article/35323 THE TAKEAWAY MESSAGE for any who have ears to hear ... resist Star Chamber and pay with your career ... welcome to the Indiana system of (cough) justice.

  2. GMA Ranger, I, too, was warned against posting on how the Ind govt was attempting to destroy me professionally, and visit great costs and even destitution upon my family through their processing. No doubt the discussion in Indy today is likely how to ban me from this site (I expect I soon will be), just as they have banned me from emailing them at the BLE and Office of Bar Admission and ADA coordinator -- or, if that fails, whether they can file a complaint against my Kansas or SCOTUS law license for telling just how they operate and offering all of my files over the past decade to any of good will. The elitist insiders running the Hoosier social control mechanisms realize that knowledge and a unified response will be the end of their unjust reign. They fear exposure and accountability. I was banned for life from the Indiana bar for questioning government processing, that is, for being a whistleblower. Hoosier whistleblowers suffer much. I have no doubt, Gma Ranger, of what you report. They fear us, but realize as long as they keep us in fear of them, they can control us. Kinda like the kids' show Ants. Tyrannical governments the world over are being shaken by empowered citizens. Hoosiers dealing with The Capitol are often dealing with tyranny. Time to rise up: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/17/governments-struggling-to-retain-trust-of-citizens-global-survey-finds Back to the Founders! MAGA!

  3. Science is showing us the root of addiction is the lack of connection (with people). Criminalizing people who are lonely is a gross misinterpretation of what data is revealing and the approach we must take to combat mental health. Harsher crimes from drug dealers? where there is a demand there is a market, so make it legal and encourage these citizens to be functioning members of a society with competitive market opportunities. Legalize are "drugs" and quit wasting tax payer dollars on frivolous incarceration. The system is destroying lives and doing it in the name of privatized profits. To demonize loneliness and destroy lives in the land of opportunity is not freedom.

  4. Good luck, but as I have documented in three Hail Mary's to the SCOTUS, two applications (2007 & 2013),a civil rights suit and my own kicked-to-the-curb prayer for mandamus. all supported in detailed affidavits with full legal briefing (never considered), the ISC knows that the BLE operates "above the law" (i.e. unconstitutionally) and does not give a damn. In fact, that is how it was designed to control the lawyers. IU Law Prof. Patrick Baude blew the whistle while he was Ind Bar Examiner President back in 1993, even he was shut down. It is a masonic system that blackballs those whom the elite disdain. Here is the basic thrust:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackballing When I asked why I was initially denied, the court's foremost jester wrote back that the ten examiners all voted, and I did not gain the needed votes for approval (whatever that is, probably ten) and thus I was not in .. nothing written, no explanation, just go away or appeal ... and if you appeal and disagree with their system .. proof positive you lack character and fitness. It is both arbitrary and capricious by its very design. The Hoosier legal elites are monarchical minded, and rejected me for life for ostensibly failing to sufficiently respect man's law (due to my stated regard for God's law -- which they questioned me on, after remanding me for a psych eval for holding such Higher Law beliefs) while breaking their own rules, breaking federal statutory law, and violating federal and state constitutions and ancient due process standards .. all well documented as they "processed me" over many years.... yes years ... they have few standards that they will not bulldoze to get to the end desired. And the ISC knows this, and they keep it in play. So sad, And the fed courts refuse to do anything, and so the blackballing show goes on ... it is the Indy way. My final experience here: https://www.scribd.com/document/299040062/Brown-ind-Bar-memo-Pet-cert I will open my files to anyone interested in seeing justice dawn over Indy. My cases are an open book, just ask.

  5. Looks like 2017 will be another notable year for these cases. I have a Grandson involved in a CHINS case that should never have been. He and the whole family are being held hostage by CPS and the 'current mood' of the CPS caseworker. If the parents disagree with a decision, they are penalized. I, along with other were posting on Jasper County Online News, but all were quickly warned to remove posts. I totally understand that some children need these services, but in this case, it was mistakes, covered by coorcement of father to sign papers, lies and cover-ups. The most astonishing thing was within 2 weeks of this child being placed with CPS, a private adoption agency was asking questions regarding child's family in the area. I believe a photo that was taken by CPS manager at the very onset during the CHINS co-ocerment and the intent was to make money. I have even been warned not to post or speak to anyone regarding this case. Parents have completed all requirements, met foster parents, get visitation 2 days a week, and still the next court date is all the way out till May 1, which gives them(CPS) plenty of to time make further demands (which I expect) No trust of these 'seasoned' case managers, as I have already learned too much about their dirty little tricks. If they discover that I have posted here, I expect they will not be happy and penalized parents again. Still a Hostage.

ADVERTISEMENT