OLYMPIA, Wash. - Sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole is unconstitutional, Washington state's highest court ruled Thursday.

The 5-4 decision by the state Supreme Court holds that imprisoning juveniles for life, without the possibility of parole or early release, constitutes cruel punishment and therefore violates the state constitution.

The case involved Brian Bassett, who was 16 years old when his parents kicked him out of their home. He went back and shot them to death and drowned his brother in a bathtub in August 1995.

The trial judge ruled that Bassett was "a walking advertisement" for the death penalty and sentenced him to three consecutive terms of life in prison without parole - which the state Supreme Court noted was the mandatory sentence at the time.

In 2015, another trial judge resentenced Bassett to three consecutive life terms without parole after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sentencing of juveniles to life without parole should be reconsidered in all cases. The trial judge ignored substantial evidence that Bassett had been rehabilitated, the state Supreme Court noted in Thursday's ruling.

An appeals court later ruled that the Bassett case should be sent back to trial court. The state Supreme Court ruling upholds the appeals court decision and said the trial court could not impose a minimum life sentence to Bassett.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Susan Owens.

In the dissent, Justice Debra Stephens argued that the majority opinion misinterpreted the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and departed from state precedent.

The state Supreme Court's full ruling can be found here ...