Civil Rights News: Supreme Court Considers Life Without Parole for Juveniles; GOP Budget Proposal Cuts Safety Net; Department of Justice and Florida Grand Jury Investigate Fatal Shooting of Teenager

Compiled by Wally McElwain, a Spring 2012 intern at The Leadership Conference Education Fund

Court Questions Life Without Parole for Juveniles
Associated Press

The Supreme Court is considering whether minors may receive life sentences without parole. Justice Anthony Kennedy has previously ruled that juveniles can’t receive death sentences or life without parole for crimes that don’t involve killing, and he’ll likely be influential in deciding whether or not to allow more lenient sentences that would provide second chances for convicted youth.

GOP Budget Plan Cuts Deep into Domestic Programs, Reshapes Medicare, Medicaid
Rosalind S. Helderman and Lori Montgomery
Washington Post

On Tuesday, House Republicans released a budget plan directly opposed to President Obama’s latest budget proposal. Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) authored the GOP proposal that calls for providing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while drastically cutting spending on programs that benefit lower- and middle-income Americans. Tax experts speculate that changes in the tax code would require eliminating tax breaks for home mortgage interest, employer-provided health insurance, and retirement savings. Ryan’s plan is intended to be a platform for the Republicans’ push for a radically smaller federal government in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Grand Jury in Florida Will Examine Death of Teenager
Lizette Alvarez
New York Times

Last month in Florida, George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, a seventeen-year- old African American, while making his rounds as a volunteer neighborhood watchman. The teenage victim was walking to the home of his father’s girlfriend from a local convenience store when Mr. Zimmerman started following him. Mr. Zimmerman called 911 seven times as he trailed the teenager, and the emergency operator advised him to wait for the police. According to reports, Mr. Zimmerman ignored the operator’s instructions, confronted Mr. Martin, and fatally wounded the teenager in an ensuing struggle. The police investigation did not find Mr. Zimmerman criminally responsible for his actions under Florida law, which has led to protests by college students at the Seminole County courthouse and the circulation of an online petition that’s collected 500,000 signatures. The state attorney recently announced that a Seminole grand jury would hear evidence in the case on April 10. In addition, the Department of Justice is investigating any racial motivations behind the incident.