The New Jersey Supreme Court continued:
None of the traditional goals of sentencing: retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation justify life without parole for a juvenile.
The opinion omits a traditional goal of sentencing that, for good reason, is mentioned less and less frequently. That former goal was “retribution” which is just a euphemism for “revenge”, a far less noble goal. Although modern trends and precedent do not support retribution as an expressed goal of sentencing, sentencing is done by humans (judges) and will naturally play an unspoken role in cases with likeable victims.
The Court continued:
The Eighth Amendment forbids life without parole for a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide, and that the States must give defendants some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. In Miller, the United State Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders. Noting that mandatory sentences prevent consideration of the traits and mitigating qualities of youth, the Court outlined five factors for judges to consider in sentencing juveniles to take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.
In Montgomery v. Louisiana, the United States Supreme Court held that Miller applies retroactively. Here, the New Jersey Supreme Court finds that Miller’s command that a sentencing judge take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison applies with equal strength to a sentence that is the practical equivalent of life without parole. Defendants who serve lengthy term-of-years sentences that amount to life without parole should be no worse off than defendants whose sentences carry that formal designation. The focus at a juvenile’s sentencing hearing belongs on the real-time consequences of the aggregate sentence.
In State v. Yarbough, the Court adopted six criteria to help trial courts decide whether to impose consecutive sentences. The Court now holds that a sentencing court must consider not only the factors in Yarbough but also the ones in Miller when it decides whether to impose consecutive sentences on a juvenile which may result in a lengthy period of parole ineligibility.