(CN) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether life in prison is too harsh a punishment for juvenile offenders. The justices agreed to take up cases involving two juvenile criminal offenders in Florida who have been sentenced to life behind bars.
Joe Harris Sullivan, now 33, was convicted of raping a 72-year-old woman when he was 13. In the other case, Terrance Graham received life in prison for participating in a home-invasion burglary when he was 17 and on probation for another violent crime.
The Supreme Court will likely revisit the reasons it outlawed the death penalty for juvenile criminals in Roper v. Simmons. In that case, Justice Kennedy wrote that teenagers were immature, irresponsible and highly susceptible to peer pressure.
“Even a heinous crime committed by a juvenile is not evidence of irretrievably depraved character,” Kennedy wrote.
Attorneys for Sullivan and Graham argued that life sentences for juveniles violate international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The new cases are expected to reopen the debate on how much deference the Supreme Court should give international law.