Despite Juvenile Lifer Ruling, 89-Year Sentence for Teen Upheld


New York Times legal columnist Adam Liptak looks into the evolving ramifications of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Graham v. Florida, which said that teenagers who commit crimes other than murder cannot be sentenced to life in prison without parole. But does that imply, as Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. suggested in his dissent, that a 100-year sentence for teen felons is acceptable?

The lower courts are split on how to interpret the Graham decision, and the Supreme Court seems to be in no hurry to answer the question. Last week, the justices turned away an appeal from Chaz Bunch of Ohio, who was convicted of kidnapping and raping a woman in a carjacking when he was 16. He was sentenced to 89 years. Even assuming he becomes eligible for early release, he will be 95 years old before he can leave prison. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the sentence.

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