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Graham v. Florida

Supreme Court of the United States

November 9, 2009, Argued; May 17, 2010, Decided; July 6, 2010, Modified

No. 08-7412


 [*52]  [***832]  [**2017]  Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.

The issue before the Court is whether the Constitution permits a juvenile offender to be sentenced to life in prison  [*53]  without [**2018]  parole for a nonhomicide crime. The  [****12] sentence was imposed by the State of Florida. Petitioner challenges the sentence under the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, made applicable to the States by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660, 82 S. Ct. 1417, 8 L. Ed. 2d 758 (1962).

Petitioner is Terrance Jamar Graham. He was born on January 6, 1987. Graham's parents were addicted to crack cocaine, and their drug use persisted in his early years. Graham was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in elementary school. He began drinking alcohol and using tobacco at age 9 and smoked marijuana at age 13.

In July 2003, when Graham was age 16, he and three other school-age youths attempted to rob a barbeque restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida. One youth, who worked at the restaurant, left the back door unlocked just before closing time. Graham and another youth, wearing masks, entered through the unlocked door. Graham's masked accomplice twice struck the restaurant manager in the back of the head with a metal bar. When the manager started yelling at the assailant and Graham, the two youths ran out and escaped in a car driven by the third accomplice.  [****13] The restaurant manager required stitches for his head injury. No money was taken.

Graham was arrested for the robbery attempt. Under Florida law, it is within a prosecutor's discretion whether to charge 16- and 17-year-olds as adults or juveniles for most felony crimes. Fla. Stat. § 985.227(1)(b) (2003) (subsequently renumbered at § 985.557(1)(b) (2007)). Graham's prosecutor elected to charge Graham as an adult. The charges against Graham were armed burglary with assault or battery, a first-degree felony carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, §§ 810.02(1)(b), (2)(a) (2003) ; and attempted armed robbery, a second-degree  [*54]  felony carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years' imprisonment, §§ 812.13(2)(b), 777.04(1), (4)(a), 775.082(3)(c).

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560 U.S. 48 *; 130 S. Ct. 2011 **; 176 L. Ed. 2d 825 ***; 2010 U.S. LEXIS 3881 ****; 78 U.S.L.W. 4387; 22 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 328


Subsequent History: Post-conviction relief denied at Graham v. State, 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 12510 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist., Aug. 14, 2019)


Graham v. State, 982 So. 2d 43, 2008 Fla. App. LEXIS 5230 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist., Apr. 10, 2008)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.


sentence, juvenile, offenders, parole, nonhomicide, juvenile offender, adults, categorical, Eighth Amendment, cases, life sentence, proportionality, life-without-parole, culpability, offenses, commit, capital punishment, convicted, homicide, rehabilitation, noncapital, robbery, courts, youth, rape, plurality opinion, prison, impose sentence, severity, murder

Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Cruel & Unusual Punishment, Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Juvenile Offenders, General Overview, Criminal Offenses, Homicide, Manslaughter & Murder, Imposition of Sentence, Factors, Age & Term Limits