Sunday, May 10, 2009

Supreme Court to Consider Juveniles Sentenced To Life

The Supreme Court announced that it will consider 2 cases involving juveniles sentenced to life in prison. There are thousands of juveniles sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole who would be affected by this decision. The court will consider whether sentencing these juveniles to life in prison would amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Both cases come out of Florida. In the first case, Joe Harris Sullivan was sentenced to life in prison in 1989 for a rape he committed when he was 13 years old. Sullivan had been convicted of 17 serious felonies in the 2 years prior to the rape. The victim was able to identify Sullivan as the offender because she recognized his voice and the state has destroyed the DNA evidence used in the case against him. Sullivan is only 1 of 2 13 year olds sentenced to life in prison. The second case involves 17 year old Terrance Graham who was involved in an armed home invasion robbery while on probation for a violent crime.

It will be interesting to see how the court will rule. In 2005 the court found that the death penalty for juveniles amounted to cruel and unusual punishment holding that a national consensus had been reached outlawing this practice. And last year the court declined to hear the appeal of a 12 year old sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing his grandparents in their South Carolina home. The cases will be heard in the fall, after the replacement for Justice Souter is expected to be on the court.

The cases are Sullivan v. Florida, 08-7621 and Graham v. Florida, 08-7412.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.


James G. Dimeas said...

Please see our post on May 16, 2009. The California Court of Appeals decided that sentencing a 14 year old to life in prison without the possibility of parole violated the United States Constitution and California Constitution.

James G. Dimeas said...

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on this case. Should have an opinion by next year.

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