Prior to 2005, offenders who were over the age of 16 at the time that their crimes were committed could be sentenced receive the death penalty (Stanford v. Kentucky (1989)). But in Roper v. Simmons, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for a youth under 18 years old at the time of his or her crime to receive a death sentence. This landmark case eliminated capital punishment for juveniles, but still be allowed for sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
However, in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Graham v. Florida that sentencing a juvenile to life without the possibility of parole for a non-homicidal crime is in violation of the Eighth Amendment. 560 U.S. 48 (2010). This decision requires that states give juveniles a “meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” Then in 2012, deciding Miller v. Alabama, the Court held that juveniles mandatory life without parole sentences violate the Eighth Amendment. 132 S.Ct 2455 (2012). This ruling requires a judge to take into consideration the age of the offender before sentencing him or her to life without parole.
The ruling in Miller ruling affected mandatory sentencing laws in 28 states and the federal government. States applied the law inconsistently until 2016, when the Supreme Court settled the matter in Montgomery v. Louisiana. 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016). In the case, the Court determine that Miller had established a substantive rule because it prohibited the imposition of a sentence of life without parole for juvenile offenders and that rule should be applied retroactively to all juveniles serving mandatory life without parole sentences.
In response to Miller v. Alabama, Florida lawmakers passed legislation requiring individualized sentencing hearings for juveniles who are facing life in prison. In 2015, Florida Supreme Court decided in Falcon v. State that Miller must be retroactively applied. Over the past three years, the legal landscape has been rapidly evolving as the Florida courts grapple with the application of Miller and Graham v. Florida. This course assumes basic knowledge of Roper v. Simmons, Graham, and Miller as well as the provisions under Chapter 2014-220, Law of Florida. We will review changes to the Florida case law and litigation/appellate issues that are pending throughout the State.
Trial Defense Guidelines: Representing a Child Client Facing a Possible Life Sentence by the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (2015)
Abstract: The objective of these guidelines is to set forth a national standard of practice to ensure zealous, constitutionally effective representation for all juveniles facing a possible life sentence (“juvenile life”) consistent with the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2469 (2012) that trial proceedings “take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing [children] to a lifetime in prison.” The representation of children in adult court facing a possible life sentence is a highly specialized area of legal practice, therefore these guidelines address the unique considerations specific to the provision of a zealous trial defense. These guidelines set forth the roles and responsibilities of the defense team for the duration of a trial proceeding and outline child-specific considerations relevant to pre-trial, trial, and sentencing representation. Direct appeal and collateral review are not explicitly addressed in these guidelines. Read the full guide.
Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)
In this 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutional to impose the death penalty for crimes committed while the convicted was under the age of 18. In Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361 (1989), the Court had previously upheld death sentences for offenders above or at the age of 16; in effect, the decision in Roper v. Simmons overturned state statutes in 25 states. Read the full opinion.
Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010)
The U.S. Supreme Court extended its decision in Roper v. Simmons to include juvenile offenders sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for non-homicide offenses. The Court held that such sentences violated the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. Read the full opinion.
Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012)
In this 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court extended its decision in Graham. The Court held that it is cruel and unusual punishment to sentence juveniles convicted of murder to life without the possibility of parole.. Read the full opinion.
Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016)
In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that its ruling in Miller should be applied retroactively. This ruling has the potential to affect up to 2,3000 cases across the country. Read the full opinion.
ARTICLES AND PAPERS
Juvenile Life Without Parole: How the Supreme Court of Ohio Should Interpret Montgomery v. Louisiana
Grace O. Hurley, Juvenile Life without Parole: How the Supreme Court of Ohio Should Interpret Montgomery v. Louisiana, 68 Clev. St. L. Rev. 102 (2019).
Abstract: Regardless of the numerous differences between juveniles and adults, some states, including the State of Ohio, continue to impose upon juvenile homicide offenders one of the harshest forms of punishment: life without parole. In 2016, the United States Supreme Court decided Montgomery v. Louisiana, and in doing so, the Court reiterated its previous contention that a sentence of juvenile life without parole should only be imposed upon juvenile homicide offenders whose crimes reflect “irreparable corruption.” The Supreme Court of Ohio has yet to apply the Court’s Montgomery decision, but this Note suggests that if it does, the court should utilize the case as a way to end the imposition of this type of sentence on juveniles in Ohio.
Raising the Age of Juvenile Delinquency: What Science Says About the Age of Maturity and Legal Culpability
Brittany Cicirello, Raising the Age of Juvenile Delinquency: What Science Says About the Age of Maturity and Legal Culpability, 53 Prosecutor 4 (2019).
Cruel and Unusual: The Case Against Registering Kids as Sex Offenders
Nicole I. Pittman & Riya Saha Shah, Cruel and Unusual: The Case Against Registering Kids as Sex Offenders, 32-SUM Crim Just. 32 (2017).
Abstract: America’s kids have racked up some big wins in the nation’s most august court. The victory lap began in 2005 when the Supreme Court banned the death penalty for juveniles. (Roper v. Simons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005).) In 2010, the Court barred mandatory life without parole for juveniles, except those convicted of murder. (Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010).) Two years later, the Court eliminated this exclusion, reasoning that a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release violates juveniles’ constitutional protections against “cruel and unusual punishment.” (Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012).)
A New Era in Juvenile Sentencing: Why Montgomery, Adolescent Neuroscience, and a Shift in the National Conversation Point Toward a Need for a Measure 11 Reform
Joshua Olmsted, A New Era in Juvenile Sentencing: Why Montgomery, Adolescent Neuroscience, and a Shift in the National Conversation Point Toward a Need for Measure 11 Reform, 23 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 465 (2019).
Abstract: In 1994, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 11, a mandatory minimum sentencing scheme that imposes long inflexible sentences for a plethora of serious crimes. In addition to establishing mandatory minimum sentences, Measure 11 dramatically re-shaped the landscape of the juvenile justice system by mandating transfer to adult court for youth between 15 and 17 years old, charged with any Measure 11 offense, even if they are eventually convicted of a lesser offense. In recent years, there has been a push to rethink the way that we evaluate and treat juvenile offenders. Evolving Supreme Court jurisprudence, along with new research into adolescent neuroscience have called into question the appropriateness of treating juvenile and adult offenders equally when dealing with lengthy criminal sentences. This Note examines the history and justifications behind Measure 11’s treatment of juvenile offenders and proposes two functional and realistic reforms that would make Measure 11 a fairer sentencing scheme for juvenile offenders. Part I outlines the history of Measure 11, the reforms it laid out for Oregon’s sentencing of juvenile offenders, and the system’s shortcomings. Part II examines the evaluation of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence regarding juvenile sentencing and how Measure 11’s structure clashes with the Court’s command that “children are different.” Part III outlines recent advances in adolescent neuroscience and how they relate to juvenile criminal culpability and Oregon’s juvenile sentencing practices. Part IV offers proposed reforms and how they fit within the existing provisions of Measure 11.
Punishing Kids in Juvenile and Criminal Courts
Barry C. Feld, Punishing Kids in Juvenile and Criminal Courts, Crime & Just. (Forthcoming 2018).
Abstract: During the 1980s and 1990s, state lawmakers shifted juvenile justice policies from a nominally offender-oriented rehabilitative approach toward a more punitive and criminalized one. Pretrial detention and delinquency dispositions had disproportionate adverse effects on minority youths. Despite juvenile courts’ convergence with criminal courts, states provided fewer and less adequate procedural safeguards to delinquents than to adults. Developmental psychologists and policy analysts contend that adolescents’ compromised ability to exercise rights requires greater procedural safeguards. States’ transfer laws sent more and younger youths to criminal courts for prosecution as adults, emphasized offense seriousness over offender characteristics, and shifted discretion from judges conducting waiver hearings to prosecutors making charging decisions. Judges in criminal courts sentence youths similarly to adult offenders. The Supreme Court, relying on developmental psychology and neuroscience research, in Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, and Miller v. Alabama, emphasized adolescents’ diminished responsibility and limited the harshest sentences. However, the court provided states limited guidance on how to implement its decisions. Judicial and legislative responses inadequately acknowledge that “children are different.”
Is Powell Still Valid? The Supreme Court’s Changing Stance on Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Maria Slater, Note, Is Powell Still Valid? The Supreme Court’s Changing Stance on Cruel and Unusual, 104 L. Rev. 547 (2018).
Abstract: In its seminal case Robinson v. California, the Supreme Court struck down a state statute criminalizing narcotics addiction. The Court held this statute, in criminalizing the disease of drug addiction, constituted cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Six years later in Powell v. Texas, the Court declined to extend this holding to encompass alcoholism, because alcoholism involves the act of drinking rather than the status of addiction. However, the Court’s modern Eighth Amendment jurisprudence has signaled a shift in its understanding of cruel and unusual punishment. The Court has begun to take into account brain development, and its relationship to culpability, for certain classes of offenders. Neurological findings regarding the brain development involved in chronic alcoholism necessitate a similar shift in the Court’s framework for analyzing the penalization of chronic alcoholism and, given the Court’s changing stance, call into question the constitutionality of Virginia’s habitual drunkard statute. Rather than viewing alcoholism under the act-versus-status dichotomy, the Court’s Eighth Amendment proportionality analysis signals a shift towards understanding addictions such as chronic alcoholism under a non-binary framework that takes into account recent scientific understandings of addiction. Much like the Court’s shift in the juvenile and intellectual disability contexts, a similar shift should occur, this Note posits, in the Court’s proportionality analysis as applied to statutes involving chronic alcoholism. This Note concludes by calling into question the continued constitutionality of Virginia’s habitual drunkard statute under the Court’s changing jurisprudence.
Prospects for Developmental Evidence in Juvenile Sentencing Based on Miller v. Alabama
Grisso, Thomas, Kavanaugh, Antoinette, Prospects for Developmental Evidence in Juvenile Sentencing Based on Miller v. Alabama, 22 Psychol., Pub. Pol’y, & L. 235 (2016).
Abstract: Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions barred mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide (Miller v. Alabama, 2012) and applied Miller retroactively (Montgomery v. Louisiana, 2016). Miller identified several developmental factors to consider in mitigation, but left many questions unanswered about their application. The authors offer several sentencing contexts to frame the types of developmental and clinical evidence that may be relevant for Miller hearings under various circumstances. Within these contexts, they explore types and sources of relevant developmental evidence and raise questions about quality and limitations. Their analysis identifies areas in which appellate court clarification is needed to determine how developmental evidence will be used in Miller cases, and they alert developmental experts to prospects and cautions for providing relevant evidence, as well as areas in need of research.
Protecting America’s Children: Why an Executive Order Banning Juvenile Solitary Confinement Is Not Enough by Carina Muir, Pepperdine Law Review (2016)
Abstract: Despite its devastating psychological, physical, and developmental effects on juveniles, solitary confinement is used in juvenile correctional facilities across the United States. This Comment posits that such treatment violates the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It likewise argues that that President Obama’s recent Executive Order banning juvenile solitary confinement is simply not a powerful enough remedy and discusses why it must be paired with Congressional legislation or Supreme Court jurisprudence if it is to have any lasting effect. Read the full article.
“The True Legacy of Atkins and Roper: The Unreliability Principle, Mentally Ill Defendants, and the Death Penalty’s Unraveling” by Scott E. Sundby, University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-5 (2014)
In striking down the death penalty for intellectually disabled and juvenile defendants, Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons have been understandably heralded as important holdings under the Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence that has found the death penalty “disproportional” for certain types of defendants and crimes. This Article argues, however, that the cases have a far more revolutionary reach than their conventional understanding. In both cases the Court went one step beyond its usual two-step analysis of assessing whether imposing the death penalty violated “evolving standards of decency.” This extra step looked at why even though intellectual disability and youth were powerful mitigators, juries were not able to reliably use them in their decision making. The Court thus articulated expressly for the first time what this Article calls the “unreliability principle:” if too great a risk exists that constitutionally protected mitigation cannot be reliably assessed, the unreliability means that the death penalty cannot be constitutionally imposed. In recognizing the unreliability principle, the Court has called into serious question the death penalty for other offenders to whom the principle applies, such as mentally ill defendants. And, unlike with the “evolving standards” analysis, the unreliability principle does not depend on whether a national consensus exists against the practice. This Article identifies the six Atkins–Roper factors that bring the unreliability principle into play and shows why they make application of the death penalty to mentally ill defendants unconstitutional. The principle, which finds its constitutional home in the cases of Woodson v. North Carolina and Lockett v. Ohio, has profound implications for the death penalty, and if taken to its logical endpoint calls into question the Court’s core premise since Furman v. Georgia, that by providing individualized consideration of a defendant and his crime, the death penalty decision will be free of arbitrariness. Read the full paper.
“Accepting Miller ’s Invitation: Conducting a Capital-Style Mitigation Investigation in Juvenile- Life-Without-Parole Cases” by Betsy Wilson and Amanda Myers, The Champion (2014)
In this article, the authors discuss how to conduct a capital-style mitigation investigation in juvenile life-without-parole cases, especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama. Read the full article.
“Retaining a Forensic Mental Health Expert in Miller Cases” by Antoinette Kavanaugh, The Champion (2014)
In this article, the authors discuss how to retain a mental health expert for the purposes of a Miller re-sentencing hearing. Topics include the types of forensic mental health experts; preparation for clinicians, defendants, and the defendant’s family for clinical evaluation; and the factors that defense attorneys and clinicians must consider for Miller evaluations. Read the full article.
A More Just System of Juvenile Justice: Creating a New Standard of Accountability for Juveniles in Illinois
Brooke Troutman, A More Just System of Juvenile Justice: Creating a New Standard of Accountability for Juveniles in Illinois, 108 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 197 (2018).
Abstract: For over a century, America’s legal system has made substantial reforms to change its treatment of adolescents. Every day, we see that our legal system treats adolescents differently from their adult counterparts. With regards to driving privileges, voting rights, and the ability to drink, our laws recognize that adults and adolescents are different and therefore require a different set of standards. America extended this treatment to the realm of juvenile justice in 1899, when Cook County, Illinois, created the country’s first juvenile court. Originating in this court was the overarching purpose of America’s juvenile justice system–rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.
Though over a century has passed since the creation of America’s first juvenile court, only recently has the law begun to treat juveniles differently from their adult counterparts. In the past decade, landmark Supreme Court decisions Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, J.D.B. v. North Carolina, and Miller v. Alabama have implemented constitutional shields for juveniles against the death penalty, life without parole, and improper Miranda waivers. In implementing these safeguards, the Supreme Court has employed new scientific understandings of juveniles, as well as common sense, to conclude that juveniles are different from adults and should be treated differently by the law.
Though the Supreme Court created safeguards for juveniles in death penalty and life without parole circumstances, situations still exist that threaten the lives of juvenile offenders. Illinois accountability theory is one such situation. In Illinois, accountability theory is the mechanism by which the State can convict an offender of a crime which they did not actually commit. In Illinois, an individual who exhibited more than “mere presence” at the scene of the crime can be convicted of the same crime and sentenced in the same manner as the individual who committed the crime. Given the recent landmark Supreme Court cases, new scientific findings relating to the psychological understanding of juveniles, as well as simple common sense, accountability theory should not be used to prosecute juvenile offenders in Illinois.