juvenile brain development

New Blog Post on Michelle Carter Decision

Wood & Nathanson’s Eva Jellison filed an amicus brief on behalf of CPCS and MACDL in the Michelle Carter “manslaughter by texting” case. In it, she argued for the application of a reasonable juvenile standard whenever the criminal law imposes a “reasonable person” standard on juveniles. The SJC avoided deciding the question. Read our analysis here in our new blog post.

SJC Avoids Adopting "Reasonable Juvenile" Standard

n Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter, the Supreme Judicial Court declined to decide whether all legal standards involving a "reasonable person" should be applied against children by assessing what a reasonable juvenile of the same age would have done in the same circumstances. Trial attorneys should continue to request a reasonable juvenile instruction in any appropriate case and in bench trials should argue for the judge to apply a reasonable juvenile standard in closing. Given what we know about those age 18-25, trial attorneys should also consider asking for a reasonable person of the same age instruction and putting in an expert to explain brain science in the emerging adult population.

Juvenile Murder Defendants Deserve Individualized Sentencing

On October 22, Attorney Shih filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Boston Bar Association arguing that the automatic imposition of life with the possibility of parole on juveniles without an individualized sentencing hearing violates Art. 26 by precluding consideration of the distinctive characteristics of youth. Given the Supreme Judicial Court’s recent decisions in Lutskov and Perez II, as well as improved scientific understandings of juvenile brain development, “[i]t is a natural progression for this Court to find that art. 26 prohibits the non-discretionary imposition of life with parole for juvenile second-degree murder defendants.” Shih, who also authored the BBA’s brief in Lutskov, said, “We hope the Court will take this moment to recognize recent scientific and legal developments that have improved our understandings of the distinctive characteristics of youth and continue to expand the notion of justice accordingly, to provide the protections constitutionally necessary to ensure that these distinctions are appropriately incorporated into sentencing for juveniles.” Read the brief here.