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U.S. Supreme Court

High Court to Rule on ‘Freakishly Rare’ Life Sentence for 13-Year-Old

Posted May 4, 2009 11:11 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether imposing a life sentence on a juvenile for a crime other than murder violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The court agreed to decide the question in two cases from Florida involving youths who were 13 and 17 when they committed their crimes, SCOTUSblog reports. The court did not consolidate the cases, Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida.

Lawyers for the younger defendant, Joe Harris Sullivan, say his sentence is “freakishly rare,” Bloomberg reports. They say he is one of only two youths in the United States who have been sentenced to life without parole for a crime other than murder that was committed at age 13. Sullivan was convicted of raping an elderly woman.

The 17-year-old youth, Terrance Jamar Graham, received a life sentence for participating in an armed robbery while on probation, the Bloomberg story says. The Associated Press also has a story on the cert grants.

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