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Utah Law Students Challenge Juvenile Sentencing Laws

Students and Professor Petition Supreme Court

A group of law students at the University of Utah are petitioning the US Supreme Court in another development in debate over juvenile offenders.

The law students and their professor, Michael Teter, are challenging the sentencing of a Utah juvenile. Robert Cameron Houston was 17 when he killed 22-year old Raechale Elton, who worked at the residential treatment center Houston was attending.

Life Without Parole

In 2006, Elton gave Houston a ride to his group home from the treatment center. The teen raped and then stabbed the young woman, took her car and drove it into a house. Elton pled guilty to aggravated murder in a 2007 plea agreement with the prosecution. The sexual assault and rape charges were dropped as part of the deal.

Elton was sentenced to life without parole. Earlier this year, the Utah Supreme Court upheld the sentencing as constitutional, with one justice offering a dissenting opinion.

Court Shifts on Juvenile Offenders

Teter's law students are pushing for a reexamination Houston's case in light of a number of recent rulings on juvenile sentencing. Previous cases have ruled that it is unconstitutional to:

  • Sentence a juvenile to the death penalty
  • Sentence a juvenile to life without parole for non-homicide offenses
  • Enact mandatory life sentencing for juveniles convicted of homicide

If Teter and his students succeed in getting the US Supreme Court to hear their case, they may add to the precedents being set in the area of juvenile law. Advocates for youth offenders urge leniency and reform-based corrections over long sentences served in adult facilities.

No matter what the age of the accused, allegations of criminal offense can have lifelong consequences. A skilled criminal defense attorney will represent your interests in a court of law.


Utah law students petition U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of teen killer,, 20 Nov 2015

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