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November 9, 2009

Transcripts now available for oral arguments in Graham and Sullivan

Based on the early reports (discussed here), I am really excited to find time to review the transcripts from the oral arguments in the two juve LWOP cases heard today by the Supreme Court.  Everyone can now access the transcript from Graham here and from Sullivan here, and I hope by late tonight to be able to provide some early commentary on these big Eighth Amendment cases.

UPDATE:  After reading the transcripts, I am largely underwhelmed and not especially hopeful that these cases will produce a profound set of opinions.  All the Justices are understandably struggling with the stardard "where do we draw a line" challenge; but I got the nagging feeling that many Justices are more worried about the risk of drawing lines that would help juvenile defendants than worried about the risk that some states may regularly impose excessive punishments on certain juve offenders.

In addition, How Appealing has collected lots of the major media coverage of the arguments here.  I will be especially grateful to any readers who spotlight any particularly important part of this media coverage of the Graham and Sullivan arguments.

November 9, 2009 at 06:30 PM | Permalink


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I don't understand at all the point the state's attorney in Sullivan is trying to make at the beginning of his argument about how the figure of 77 LWOP sentences for non-homicide is incorrect. So what if there are another 70 plus cases that somehow involve both homicide and non-homicide?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Nov 9, 2009 7:16:05 PM

Don't the parties misframe the question? If there is no constitutional right to parole,
what difference does it make that Florida chooses to give some parties parole and others not? Morever, the Chief Justice suggestion of balancing factors after conviction seems to miss the point that the balancing already occurred before the minor was selected for adult
trial. If there is no consitutional right to parole, isn't the real issue whether a minor selected for trial as an adult can receive a life sentence? If not, what is the maximum sentenec? Or, if not, must a state offer a parole mechanism for persons who are not X years of age at the time of the offense (or sentencing)?

Posted by: Bill Thompson | Nov 10, 2009 9:13:49 AM

Bill Thompson,

We've gone round and round on that issue. Although from the argument the alternative sentence here is not life with parole but a term of 40 years with various credits available.

I found the argument about actuarial life telling also, as well as the multiple jurisdiction hypothetical. Any strong ruling for these offenders is going to create a huge mess.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Nov 10, 2009 10:30:35 AM

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