U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS declines case on de facto life sentences for juveniles

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The U.S. Supreme Court declined to clear up some confusion over lengthy sentences for juveniles when it refused last week to hear the case of a juvenile who won’t be eligible for early release until he is 95 years old.

The defendant, Chaz Bunch of Ohio, was convicted of kidnapping and rape when he was 16 years old, the New York Times reports. He was sentenced to 89 years in prison.

The issue in Bunch’s case is whether a de facto life sentence violates the Eighth Amendment as interpreted by Graham v. Florida. The 2010 decision barred life in prison without the possibility of parole for juveniles who have not been charged with murder.

Courts have interpreted the decision in two ways, the Times says. Some say the decision still allows very long fixed sentences, such as 100 years in prison. Others hold that such sentences amount to life in prison and violate the spirit of Graham.

“The lower courts are split on how to interpret the Graham decision,” the Times says, “and the Supreme Court seems to be in no hurry to answer the question.”

Hat tip to How Appealing.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Some Fla. Juveniles Face Virtual Life Sentences Despite Supreme Court Ruling”

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