Cape’s Bryan Stevenson argues successfully before U.S. Supreme Court

June 29, 2012
Bryan Stevenson graduated from Cape Henlopen High School in 1977. SOURCE FILE

Cape Henlopen High School graduate Bryan Stevenson figured prominently in a U.S. Supreme Court decision announced June 25. The 1977 Cape graduate – one of the district's most illustrious – argued on the winning side of a 5-4 decision that struck down mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder. There are 29 states affected by the decision.

The decision doesn't preclude life sentences without parole for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder. It just ensures that such sentences are not imposed without consideration of potentially mitigating circumstances.

Stevenson, director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., argued the case before the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., in March. On the day the decision was announced, Bryan's organization posted the following statement:

“The U.S. Supreme Court today issued an historic ruling in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger convicted of homicide are unconstitutional. Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller, sentenced to life in prison without parole at 14, are now entitled to new sentencing hearings. Today’s ruling will affect hundreds of individuals whose sentences did not take their age or other mitigating factors into account.”

Stevenson argued that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles, sometimes referred to as “death in prison” sentences, represent cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The Equal Justice Initiative, according to its website, is a private, nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system. Stevenson graduated from Harvard in 1985 with a master’s degree in government policy and a law degree.

Surf injuries under study

Dr. Paul Cowan of the emergency department staff at Beebe Medical Center wants to know what conditions exist along the surf zone of our ocean beaches leading to frequent and sometimes paralyzing injuries. Cowan's study is featured in a current publication from University of Delaware focusing on southern Delaware.

By gathering data about when and under what conditions surf zone injuries occur, Cowan hopes to be able to share conclusions which may help people, and the lifeguards who protect them, to understand when it is particularly dangerous to be in the surf zone, where waves break, and how to enjoy that dynamic part of the ocean experience more safely.

Motorcycle procession honors sacrifices

Becky and I rode a bicycle tour in Kent County, Md., last Sunday. Jim Gent, who owns a house in Lewes, helped organize the event along with other members of his Chestertown Lions Club. Our first stop for food and drink was a pavilion in downtown Millington, a town a shade smaller than Milton. After 25 miles of pedaling, handfuls of Cheez-Its, Chex Mix and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all washed down with ice-cold Gatorade made for a fine breakfast.

Chomping and drinking, we looked across a dusty field toward a cemetery on the other side of the main street running through Millington.
Volunteers at the stop said the cemetery would be the destination for a parade of motorcycles assembling that morning at a nearby VFW. “There are five soldiers buried there, all who died in the Afghanistan war,” they said. The number astounded us. It seems so inordinately high for such a small town.

Half an hour later we passed the VFW and dozens of motorcyclists milling about before the procession. One motorcyclist passed us on his way to the VFW. The embroidered panel on the back of his black leather vest declared him as a Vietnam veteran. I need to find out how many of those Afghanistan war soldiers buried in the Millington cemetery were sons or daughters of veterans and members of that VFW post.

As we approach the Fourth of July holiday that celebrates with great festivities the freedoms that we enjoy in the United States, such processions as what we witnessed in Millington serve as important reminders that those freedoms come with a high price.

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