NC justices: Young offenders are parole-eligible at 40 years

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A sharply divided North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled juvenile offenders sentenced to long prison terms for deadly and violent crimes must be eligible for parole after 40 years behind bars.

The Democratic majority held the prevailing opinions Friday in a pair of cases involving youths who committed murder, rape, or both.

It agreed that sentences that required the offenders to serve 45 or 50 years before a possible release were the equivalents of having no chance at all and are thus constitutional.

The court’s three Republicans joined in dissenting opinions, accusing their colleagues of judicial activism and limiting the sentences that judges can hand down.

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