On July 26, 2019, while on vacation in Atlanta, Legal Support Coordinator, Elaine Sutton, took a day trip to Montgomery, AL to visit the Lynching Memorial and the Legacy Museum on Mass Incarceration.
Elaine participated in a simulation booth mirroring a jail/prison visitation room. Through video, a formerly incarcerated individual described their experience. At the conclusion of the video, Elaine turned to leave. To her surprise, the very individual featured in the video was standing directly behind her answering questions of museum visitors. Elaine looked twice thinking perhaps she was mistaken. Upon the 3rd look-back, she realized that he was indeed the man featured in the video, Mr. Kuntrell Jackson.
Elaine struck up a conversation with Mr. Jackson to learn more about him and his participation at The Legacy Museum. Mr. Jackson shared that he was the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case Jackson v. Hobbs, a companion case to the historic U.S. Supreme Court case Miller v. Alabama. Jackson v. Hobbs challenged the issuance of mandatory life sentences without parole for all children 17 or younger convicted of homicide.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court determiend that the constitution prohibits requiring that juvenile offenders serve life in prison without the possibility of parole. Kuntrell Jackson, sentenced to life in prison without parole at 14, was entitled to a new sentencing hearing. The ruling affected hundreds of individuals whose sentences did not take their age or other mitigating factors into account.
Jackson was officially released on February 21, 2017.
Presently, Mr. Jackson is a full-time film and theatre major at a local university in Montgomery and volunteers at The Legacy Museum. Mr. Jackson’s parting words to Elaine were a request that we keep the issue of mandatory life without parole sentences at the forefront of the justice reform movement.
To learn about Kuntrell’s case go to: https://eji.org/sites/default/files/kuntrell-jackson-arkansas-supreme-court-decision-04-25-13.pdf and https://eji.org/miller-v-alabama