On December 22, 2016, the Supreme Court of Ohio handed down a merit decision in State v. Moore, 2016-Ohio-8288. In a 4-3 opinion written by now-retired Justice Paul Pfeifer, the court held that a term-of-years prison sentence imposed on a juvenile non-homicide offender that exceeds the offender’s life expectancy violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Read the analysis of that decision here.
Key Precedent Involved
Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010) (The Eighth Amendment prohibits life sentences without parole for juvenile non-homicide offenders. These offenders, especially when there was no intent to kill have “twice diminished moral culpability.” Therefore, they must be given “some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”)
State files Cert. Petition in Moore
On March 22, 2017, the state filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the case.
These are the questions presented:
- Whether Graham v. Florida‘s categorical rule applies to consecutive, fixed-term prison sentences for multiple non-homicide offenses committed by a juvenile that result in a lengthy aggregate sentence.
- If Graham‘s categorical rule applies to consecutive, fixed-term prison sentences for multiple non-homicide offenses, at what point must a juvenile be provided “some meaningful opportunity for release.”
- Whether Graham applies retroactively to juveniles sentenced to consecutive, fixed-term prison sentences for multiple non-homicide offenses that result in a lengthy aggregate sentence.
Read the complete petition here.
Moore filed his response May 26, 2017. Moore re-formulated the questions presented as follows:
- Whether a state may evade Graham’s categorical prohibition on life without parole sentences for juvenile non-homicide offenders by sentencing those offenders to consecutive term-of-years sentences that effectively deny them any meaningful possibility of release within their lifetime but lack the formal label “life without parole.”
- Whether, despite Graham’s admonition that states must “explore the means and mechanisms for compliance,” id., and absent any evidence that states cannot complete this task, this Court must step in now to craft a bright-line rule about what constitutes a “meaningful opportunity” for release.
- Whether the substantive limitation on sentencing juvenile offenders recognized in Graham is retroactive.
Read Moore’s complete response here.
On June 14, 2017, the cert. petition was distributed for the Court’s conference of September 25, 2017. The blog will keep readers posted on this.