• Aug 28, 2017

Amicus brief argues lengthy sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional

This week, Sher Tremonte LLP filed an amicus curiae brief in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School, a joint initiative of Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice and its Criminal Justice Institute, that advocates for a fair and accountable justice system through legal action, public discourse, and educational initiatives. The brief was authored by partner Justin M. Sher and associate and pro bono coordinator Noam Biale, who, before joining Sher Tremonte, worked on the merits brief in the Miller case.

The brief was filed in two consolidated cases, Timothy Willbanks v. Missouri Department of Corrections and Ledale Nathan v. State of Missouri, both of which involve the Eighth Amendment’s protection of juveniles in the criminal legal system. In two recent decisions, Graham v. Florida (2010) and Miller v. Alabama (2012), the Supreme Court limited the circumstances in which juveniles may be sentenced to life without parole. Petitioners Mr. Willbanks and Mr. Ledale were each sentenced to lengthy terms of incarceration for crimes they committed when they were under eighteen, for which they will not be parole-eligible until they are in their eighties. They argued to the Missouri courts that these were effectively life sentences and therefore violated Graham and Miller. The Missouri courts held that because both youths were sentenced to consecutive terms for multiple crimes (all arising out of the same single incident), the Supreme Court’s decisions did not apply to them.

In our amicus brief supporting the petitioners, we argue that the Eighth Amendment’s protections apply equally to children convicted of multiple crimes as those convicted of one crime, and that any criminal sentence for a juvenile that exceeds the period of time necessary for rehabilitation amounts to disproportionate punishment.

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