A study concerning violent crimes committed by juveniles and commissioned by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has yielded controversial results, according to a report published by The Appeal earlier this month.
In a press release, the attorney’s office revealed that the study included a team of eight forensic experts headed by Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist well known for his psychological assessments and testimony in high profile criminal cases.
The 142-page report, received by the Maricopa County Attorney’s office in May, argues that juveniles who commit violent offenses should not receive lighter sentences solely on account of their age. The argument opposes decades of neuroscientific research, which holds that juveniles and teenagers are often incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions as fully as an adult.
If your child has been charged with a criminal offense, contact a qualified juvenile criminal defense attorney at Lerner and Rowe Law Group today. Our legal team will fight for your child’s right to appropriate, fair sentencing in Arizona juvenile court.
Precedence of Prohibited Mandatory Sentencing
The landmark Supreme Court case of Miller v. Alabama in 2012 resulted in the prohibition of mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for children and teenagers across the country. A subsequent case in 2016, Montgomery v. Louisiana, applied this ruling retroactively to convicted juveniles who were serving previously issued mandatory life sentences.
The court rested its decision on the basis that fundamental differences exist between the brains of adults and children. It also stated that teenagers are, by the nature of their developing brains, more impulsive and more easily swayed by peer pressure.
Dr. Welner, the author of the new study, purports that the decades of research endorsed by the American Psychological Association (APA), which supports reduced sentences for minors, is outdated and in need of revisiting. Much of the research backed by the APA comes from Dr. Laurence Steinberg, who authored several amicus briefs on behalf of multiple adolescents convicted and sentenced to the death penalty or life in prison.