CategoriesConstitutional LawCriminal LawJurisprudence
Over 2,589 individuals sit in prison, where they have been condemned to die for crimes they committed before their eighteenth birthday. At least a quarter of these individuals received this sentence for accessorial felony murder, or a crime in which they did not kill or intend to kill the victim. Beginning with Roper v. Simmons in 2005 and continuing with Graham v. Florida in 2010, recent Eighth Amendment jurisprudence has recognized that juveniles are fundamentally different from adults in ways that limit the constitutionality of imposing adult punishment on them. In June 2012, the Supreme Court held that sentencing juveniles to mandatory life without parole constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in another landmark ruling, Miller v. Alabama. Miller did not extend Graham’s categorical rule against life without parole to those convicted of homicide, including accessorial felony murder. However, it gives at least 2,000 individuals currently serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles a chance at resentencing, and requires that the sentencer take into account their child status and any other mitigating circumstances surrounding their offense in meting out a new sentence.
This Note focuses on juvenile life without parole and current Eighth Amendment jurisprudence in the context of felony murder and makes two arguments. First, it argues that the Eighth Amendment as interpreted by Graham categorically prohibits sentencing those juveniles who do not kill or intend to kill to life without parole. Second, it argues that even without a categorical rule, lower courts properly applying Miller should resentence those who do not kill or intend to kill to something less than life without parole.