Title

Graham v. Florida and Evolving Standards of Decency: The Supreme Court’s Approach to Constitutional Punishment for Juvenile Offenders in Felony Crimes

Presenter Information

Rebecca Sturgis

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 271

Start Date

17-5-2012

End Date

17-5-2012

Abstract

Is a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a nonhomicidal crime a constitutional violation of a juvenile’s eighth amendment rights? Yes, according to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2010 case Graham v. Florida. In short, the eighth amendment protects citizens from cruel and unusual punishments. Since this amendment, like others, is subject to ambiguity and state-to-state interpretation, the Supreme Court continues to define it by ruling on different cases. Although the topic of sentencing juveniles has come before the Supreme Court in cases such as Roper v. Simmons (2005), in which the Supreme Court ruled juveniles cannot face the death penalty, there are still issues being raised. In this case, Graham v. Florida, a 17 year old boy was found guilty of multiple felonies and sentenced to 12 months jail time and probation. However, while on probation he committed more felonies and was then sentenced to life in prison. Since Florida does not have a parole system this meant he had no chance of getting out. The justices came to a 6-3 ruling supporting the petitioner. Will juveniles become less deterred from crime? Will parole boards now examine juveniles on their schedule different? Or does this ruling simply reiterate a societal viewpoint that is already in place? My presentation will discuss the deeper facts of this case, but most importantly the impact because this ruling from the high court has an inevitable effect downward on all citizens as it becomes real practice in the system.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Sue Armstrong

Additional Mentoring Department

Law and Justice

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May 17th, 10:00 AM May 17th, 11:20 AM

Graham v. Florida and Evolving Standards of Decency: The Supreme Court’s Approach to Constitutional Punishment for Juvenile Offenders in Felony Crimes

SURC 271

Is a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a nonhomicidal crime a constitutional violation of a juvenile’s eighth amendment rights? Yes, according to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2010 case Graham v. Florida. In short, the eighth amendment protects citizens from cruel and unusual punishments. Since this amendment, like others, is subject to ambiguity and state-to-state interpretation, the Supreme Court continues to define it by ruling on different cases. Although the topic of sentencing juveniles has come before the Supreme Court in cases such as Roper v. Simmons (2005), in which the Supreme Court ruled juveniles cannot face the death penalty, there are still issues being raised. In this case, Graham v. Florida, a 17 year old boy was found guilty of multiple felonies and sentenced to 12 months jail time and probation. However, while on probation he committed more felonies and was then sentenced to life in prison. Since Florida does not have a parole system this meant he had no chance of getting out. The justices came to a 6-3 ruling supporting the petitioner. Will juveniles become less deterred from crime? Will parole boards now examine juveniles on their schedule different? Or does this ruling simply reiterate a societal viewpoint that is already in place? My presentation will discuss the deeper facts of this case, but most importantly the impact because this ruling from the high court has an inevitable effect downward on all citizens as it becomes real practice in the system.