Fla. Juvenile Crime Law Takes the Stand; the Supreme Court Is Hearing Two Cases of Youth Sentenced to Life

By Pinkham, Paul | The Florida Times Union, November 10, 2009 | Go to article overview

Fla. Juvenile Crime Law Takes the Stand; the Supreme Court Is Hearing Two Cases of Youth Sentenced to Life


Pinkham, Paul, The Florida Times Union


Byline: PAUL PINKHAM

WASHINGTON - Florida's tough stance against juvenile criminals was debated on a national stage Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments by lawyers for two North Florida inmates challenging their life-without-parole prison sentences in non-homicides.

In two of the most closely watched cases of the term, the justices drew familiar ideological lines in their questions and comments about Terrance Jamar Graham, now 22, of Jacksonville and Joe Sullivan, now 34, of Pensacola. Their appeals have drawn international attention since the Supreme Court agreed in May to decide whether their sentences violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Graham was 16 when he committed an armed burglary and 17 when he was sentenced to life for violating his probation by committing an armed home invasion robbery. Sullivan was 13 when he got life for raping an elderly woman 20 years ago.

Their lawyers hope to build on the Supreme Court's narrow 2005 decision striking down the death penalty for juveniles. They repeatedly cited that 5-4 opinion, which held that juveniles are less responsible for their actions than adults based on sociological and scientific research.

"A juvenile's different than an adult. We know over time he will change," argued Graham's attorney, Bryan Gowdy. "... Terrance Graham at age 47 will not be the person he was at 17."

He said even parole eligibility after 40 or 50 years would give some hope to incarcerated juveniles.

But Florida Solicitor General Scott Makar argued in both cases Monday that sentencing decisions are best left to individual states to decide. He asked the justices to consider the dramatic rise in violent juvenile crime that led to stiffer sanctions in the 1990s.

"What they're asking ... goes against national consensus and national trends," Makar contended. In both cases, he said, the level of violence was "off the scale."

A QUESTION OF RETRIBUTION

Makar also asked that Sullivan's appeal be denied on procedural grounds because it could have been raised years ago. But Sullivan's attorney, Bryan Stevenson, said the 2005 decision raised new issues for Sullivan.

Stevenson noted there are 111 people serving life prison sentences in the United States for non-homicide crimes committed when they were juveniles, 77 of which are in Florida. Only two, both in Florida, were 13 when they committed their crimes.

"It is unquestionably unusual," Stevenson said. "But, we also contend, to say to any child at 13 that you must die in prison is cruel."

Justice Samuel Alito recited a litany of crimes committed by juveniles that he said were so horrific he wouldn't have imagined them possible.

"There are some individuals short of their 18th birthday who deserve life in prison without parole," he said.

Justice Antonin Scalia said the inmates' arguments assume that the only goal of punishment is rehabilitation or deterrence. The state has an interest in retribution as well, he said.

Gowdy replied that to sentence a less culpable offender to the most severe punishment is too much retribution.

Several justices also questioned how to specify an age at which life without parole is not an option. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Fla. Juvenile Crime Law Takes the Stand; the Supreme Court Is Hearing Two Cases of Youth Sentenced to Life
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.