Cruel And Unusual? Supreme Court To Consider Life For Juveniles


The Wall Street Journal reviews the case of Joe Sullivan, who in 1989–when he was 13–was convicted of breaking into a Pensacola, Fla., house, stealing jewelry and coins, and raping the 72-year-old woman who lived there. Coming after 17 prior offenses that included assault, burglary and animal cruelty, a judge sentenced Sullivan to life imprisonment, which in Florida carries no possibility of parole. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the appeal of his sentence on Nov. 9.

It is one of the central criminal-justice cases of the 2009-10 term and will mark the first time the high court will consider whether sentencing a juvenile offender to life without parole for a crime in which no one died violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments.” In a companion case the same day, the court also will weigh the fate of Terrance Graham, now serving life for armed burglary of a Jacksonville, Fla., barbecue restaurant at age 16.

Comments are closed.