We argued that a 91½-year sentence, requiring at least 45 years served prior to becoming parole eligible, for nonhomicide offenses committed by a juvenile is unconstitutional under Graham because it fails to provide a “meaningful opportunity” for release.
Along with Atlantic Center for Capital Representation and Wendy L. Williams & Associates, Juvenile Law Center filed an Application for Exercise of Extraordinary Jurisdiction or King's Bench Power on behalf of over 100 juveniles sentenced to JLWOP and then resentenced to 20-to-life terms.
Juvenile Law Center and Center for Law, Brain and Behavior filed an amicus brief supporting Ahmad Bright’s petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. We argued that the opportunity for parole is not an adequate substitute for an individualized sentencing hearing as required by Miller and Montgomery. Furthermore, youth who are accomplices are essentially nonhomicide offenders and, under Graham v. Florida (2010), cannot be sentenced to life without parole sentences.
Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP)
Amici argued that a life without parole sentence for a juvenile convicted of first degree murder under a theory of accessorial liability is unconstitutional under Graham because such a conviction is the equivalent of a nonhomicide crime since it does not require that the defendant kill or intend to kill.
Juvenile Law Center, in collaboration with Teamchild, filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of Washington in support of Joel Ramos who received an aggregate 85-year sentence for multiple offenses.
At ages 16 and 17, Treson Roberts and Zyion Houston-Sconiers stole candy and cell phones from teenage trick-or-treaters on Halloween. As a result of Washington’s automatic decline statute, they were each transferred to adult court and subjected to adult mandatory minimum sentences without a hearing or individualized determination of the appropriateness of the transfer. Mr. Roberts and Mr. Houston-Sconiers were sentenced to 26 plus years and 31 years respectively. We argued that this statutory scheme violates the procedural due process protections of the U.S. Constitution.
Juvenile Law Center, with Public Interest Law Center and other amici, filed an amicus brief in the Florida Supreme Court on behalf of a 15-year-old child sentenced to concurrent 45 years sentences for nonhomicide offenses.
Juvenile Law Center was co-counsel in Montgomery v. Louisiana, a case recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court holding that Miller v. Alabama (2012) applies retroactively to individuals serving mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences.
These briefs involved a thirteen-year-old student who was questioned by four adults, including a uniformed police officer, on school grounds regarding a series of break-ins. Juvenile Law Center argued that the student should have been considered in custody for Miranda purposes.
Supreme Court held the execution of juveniles unconstitutional. Juvenile Law Center’s brief argued the developmental differences between adolescents and adults in critical areas, including impulse control and understanding consequences.
One of the most important lessons from our 40 years of experience is that children involved with the justice and foster care systems need zealous legal advocates. Your support for our work is more important now than ever before.