Graham v. Florida
Graham v. Florida was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

, in 2010, in which it was held that juvenile
Minor (law)
In law, a minor is a person under a certain age — the age of majority — which legally demarcates childhood from adulthood; the age depends upon jurisdiction and application, but is typically 18...

 offenders cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for non-homicide offenses. The court decided whether Roper v. Simmons
Roper v. Simmons
Roper v. Simmons, was a decision in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that it is unconstitutional to impose capital punishment for crimes committed while under the age of 18. The 5-4 decision overruled the Court's prior ruling upholding such sentences on offenders above or at the...

(2005), which had abolished the death penalty for juvenile offenders, should also apply to sentences of life without the possibility of parole. Currently, according to a May 2010 Catholic News Service article, thirty-seven states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government have statutes that allow for a possible sentence of life in prison without parole for non-homicide crimes. However, only some of those jurisdictions actually have persons serving those sentences for non-homicide crimes, and most of those are adults (according to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, there are 129 people currently serving non-parole life sentences for non-homicide crimes which they committed as juveniles, 77 in Florida and the rest scattered among only 10 states).

The case

Terrance Jamar Graham (born January 6, 1987), along with two accomplices, attempted to rob a barbecue restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 on July 2003. Aged 16 at the time, Graham was arrested for the robbery attempt and was charged as an adult for armed burglary with assault and battery, as well as attempted armed robbery, with the first charge being a first degree felony that is punishable by life. He pled guilty and his plea was accepted.

Six months later, on December 2, 2004, Graham was arrested again for home invasion robbery. Though Graham denied involvement, he acknowledged that he was in violation of his plea agreement. In 2006, the presiding judge sentenced Graham to life in prison, and because Florida abolished parole, is became a sentence without parole.

Majority opinion

Justice Kennedy
Anthony Kennedy
Anthony McLeod Kennedy is an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, having been appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Since the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, Kennedy has often been the swing vote on many of the Court's politically charged 5–4 decisions...

 delivered the opinion of the Court:


The ruling was declared retroactive to cases on collateral review as a "new rule of substantive constitutional law" by the 7th Judicial District Court in Scott County, Iowa
Scott County, Iowa
-2010 census:The 2010 census recorded a population of 165,224 in the county, with a population density of . There were 71,835 housing units, of which 66,765 were occupied.-2000 census:...

, in the case of State v. Jason Means. Means was aged 17 when he was involved in a 1993 kidnapping and homicide. Following a jury trial, Means was convicted of kidnapping
In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority...

 and second degree murder. Thereafter, Means was sentenced to life without parole on the kidnapping charge and 90 years consecutive on the second degree murder and other related charges.

Means challenged his life sentence under Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.24(5) with the assistance of attorney Angela Fritz Reyes. On September 30, 2010, the district court issued an opinion declaring Graham retroactive. The court resentenced Means in absentia to life imprisonment and severed the non-parole portion of Iowa law, thereby granting Means the opportunity for parole.

However, in at least two cases, state high courts have ruled that life without parole is still appropriate for homicides, no matter what age the defendant. On December 21, 2010, the Supreme Court of Missouri
Supreme Court of Missouri
The Supreme Court of Missouri is the highest court in the state of Missouri. It was established in 1820, and is located in Jefferson City, Missouri. Missouri voters have approved changes in the state's constitution to give the Supreme Court exclusive jurisdiction- the sole legal power to hear -...

 delivered its opinion in the case of State v. Anthony Andrews, affirming a sentence of life imprisonment without parole in a case in which the defendant, Andrews, was a juvenile convicted of first-degree murder. The Wisconsin Supreme Court
Wisconsin Supreme Court
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is the highest appellate court in the state of Wisconsin. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over original actions, appeals from lower courts, and regulation or administration of the practice of law in Wisconsin.-Location:...

on May 20, 2011, ruled similarly in State v. Omer Ninham, in a case where Ninham was convicted as an adult of intentional homicide for a crime committed at the age of 14.
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