U.S. Supreme Court Denies Certiorari in Brandon Moore Case.

Case Background

Brandon Moore was sentenced to an aggregate prison term of 112 years in prison for convictions for three counts each of aggravated robbery, rape, complicity to commit rape, and one count each of kidnapping, complicity to commit aggravated robbery, and aggravated menacing. Moore was fifteen years old when he committed these crimes. This was not a sentence for a single offense, but a series of sentences, running consecutively. Moore will be eligible for release at age 92.

Supreme Court of Ohio Decision

Moore successfully argued to the Supreme Court of Ohio that the sentence he received was a de facto life sentence, which denied him any meaningful opportunity for release, contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Graham v. Florida 560 U.S. 48 (2010). Graham held that juvenile non-homicide offenders cannot be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In State v. Moore,  2016-Ohio-8288,  a 4-3 opinion authored 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 an analysis of the merit decision here.

State Seeks Review in U.S. Supreme Court

On March 22, 2017, the state filed a petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court in the Moore case. The Supreme Court of Ohio stayed Moore’s re-sentencing pending resolution of the cert. petition.

In its cert. petition, the state’s key argument was the same one it made before the Ohio high court, and that is that Graham involved a life sentence for a single non-homicide offense, whereas the Moore case involves consecutive fixed-term sentences for multiple non-homicide offenses, so the mandate in Graham should not apply to Moore.

The state presented these three questions for review in its petition:

  • Does Graham’s categorical rule apply 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?”
  • Does Graham apply retroactivity to juveniles sentenced to consecutive, fixed-term prison sentences for multiple non-homicide offenses that result in a lengthy aggregate sentence?

On October 2, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order denying cert. in Moore’s case.

You can read the state’s cert. petition here and Moore’s brief in opposition here.

The blog will report what happens when Moore is re-sentenced.

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