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Name: Graham v. Florida
Case #: 12-Aug
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 05/17/2010
Subsequent History: 130 S.Ct. 2011; 176 L.Ed.2d 825

A sentence of life without parole for a juvenile offender who does not commit homicide violates the Eight Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause. Graham was 16 when he committed armed burglary and another crime in Florida. By his pleas, he was convicted of the offenses and granted probation. Before reaching the age of 18, he committed other serious crimes and the court sentenced him to life in prison for the burglary. Because Florida has abolished parole, the sentence for the non-homicide offense was, in effect, a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Focusing on the fact that Graham was a juvenile with characteristics unique to his juvenile status, the Supreme Court found that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment does not permit a sentence of life without parole for a juvenile convicted of a non-homicide offense. Although such a sentence was found to be unconstitutional, the state is not required to free the prisoner. Rather, it only must give such a defendant some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.