Sarah Marie Johnson v. State of Idaho
Phillips Black represents Ms. Johnson in her case pending before the United States Supreme Court. The case challenges Idaho's failure to comply with recent Supreme Court cases regulating the administration of juvenile life without parole and asks the Court to strike down that sentence as a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
In 2005, Ms. Johnson was sentenced to life without parole for killing her parents when she was sixteen years old and had a history of clinical depression and a suicide attempt. She had no prior criminal history, and the state alleged she shot her parents with a rifle to prevent them from pursuing statutory rape charges against, or seeking deportation of, her nineteen-year-old boyfriend.
At her 2005 sentencing hearing, the state's expert testified that she was amenable to rehabilitation. Despite her depression and violent act, her prognosis was good. The sentencing court discounted her potential for rehabilitation and sentenced her to consecutive terms of life without parole.
After the United States Supreme Court held that only the rarest juvenile offenders, those that are irreparably corrupt, could be lawfully sentenced to life without parole, Ms. Johnson sought relief in state court. The Idaho Supreme Court held that, despite the uncontradicted evidence of her capacity for rehabilitation, her sentences could stand.
Ms. Johnson's petition to the Supreme Court is available here.
Ms. Johnson's supplemental brief is available here.
The decision of the Idaho Supreme Court is here.
Aurora Barnes, Petition of the Day, SCOTUSBlog (Aug. 29, 2017)
Rashad Robinson, No Child Deserves a Life Sentence. But Try Telling Prosecutors That. New York Times (Aug. 10, 2017)