In this one-off documentary Susanna Reid goes behind bars in America to meet murder convicts who killed when they were children, as the country questions, what is the correct punishment for this most shocking of crimes?
The USA is unique in giving so-called ‘death in prison’ sentences to juveniles who kill. But in 2016 the American Supreme Court ruled such sentences are ‘unconstitutional’ and it is a cruel and unusual punishment to send a child to die behind bars - allowing murderers to have their sentences re-examined with the potential chance of one day being paroled.
Twenty years ago the details of Joshua Phillips' case gripped America when the 14 year old murdered his eight year old friend and neighbour Maddie Clifton before concealing her body for six days. Although still a child, Joshua's crime was ruled so heinous he was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of release.
As Joshua returns to court 19 years after his original trial, Susanna meets the two sides fighting a battle over his sentence. With exclusive access to the family of the victim, to Joshua’s mother and to the killer himself, Susanna is in court as Joshua's fate is decided.
Susanna also meets Morgan Leppert who was found guilty of first degree murder for the brutal killing of a disabled man when she was 15 years old. Despite the fact that she was a child who acted as an accomplice to her 23 year old boyfriend, she also received the same punishment, life without parole.