The arguments in Pennsylvania's Supreme Court aren't typically the stuff of blaring headlines, unless you're reading the Legal Intelligencer. But today, hundreds of juvenile lifers across the state are eyeballing the happenings in Harrisburg with cautious hope.
The justices will hear arguments in the case of Qu-eed Batts, who was 14 and a Bloods street gang member when he gunned down two teenagers, one fatally, in Easton in 2006. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. His attorneys argue the sentence was unconstitutional and cruel because of his youth. If they succeed in their appeal, juvenile lifers statewide are expected to cite the ruling in their bids for relief.
Pennsylvania leads the nation and world in the number of juveniles it commits to life behind bars, with nearly 500. Defenders say they were too young to fully realize the consequences of their actions and so don't deserve adult penalties. Critics say their crimes were so monstrous that they should face commensurate punishment.
A decision isn't expected until 2011.