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United States Supreme Court

Criminal Law

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

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Full-Text Articles in Law

Kids Are Different, Stephen St.Vincent Sep 2010

Kids Are Different, Stephen St.Vincent

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

The Supreme Court recently handed down its decision in Graham v. Florida. The case involved a juvenile, Graham, who was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted as an adult of a nonhomicidal crime. The offense, a home invasion robbery, was his second; the first was attempted robbery. Due to Florida's abolition of parole, the judge's imposition of a life sentence meant that Graham was constructively sentenced to life without parole for a nonhomicide crime. Graham challenged this sentence as unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. Somewhat surprisingly, the Supreme Court invalidated Graham's sentence by a 6-3 ...


Redemption Song: Graham V. Florida And The Evolving Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence, Robert Smith, G. Ben Choen Jan 2010

Redemption Song: Graham V. Florida And The Evolving Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence, Robert Smith, G. Ben Choen

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

In Graham v. Florida, the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a sentence of life without parole ("LWOP") for a juvenile under eighteen who commits a non-homicide offense. For Terrance Graham, who committed home-invasion robbery at seventeen, the decision does not mean necessarily that he someday will leave the brick walls of Florida's Taylor Annex Correctional Institution. Unlike previous Eighth Amendment decisions, such as Roper v. Simmons, where the Court barred the death penalty for juveniles, this new categorical rule does not translate into automatic relief for members of the exempted class: "A State need not guarantee ...


Stevens's Ratchet: When The Court Should Decide Not To Decide, Joel A. Flaxman Jan 2006

Stevens's Ratchet: When The Court Should Decide Not To Decide, Joel A. Flaxman

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

Hidden underneath the racy death penalty issues in Kansas v. Marsh lurks a seemingly dull procedural issue addressed only in separate opinions by Justices Stevens and Scalia: whether the Court should have heard the case in the first place. As he did in three cases from the Court’s 2005 term, Justice Stevens argued in Marsh that the Court has no legitimate interest in reviewing state court decisions that overprotect federal constitutional rights. Instead, the Supreme Court should exercise its certiorari power to tip the scales against states and in favor of individuals. Granting certiorari in Marsh, Stevens argued, was ...


The High Court Remains As Divided As Ever Over The Death Penalty, George H. Kendall Jan 2006

The High Court Remains As Divided As Ever Over The Death Penalty, George H. Kendall

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

More than three decades ago, in Furman v. Georgia, a sharply divided Supreme Court struck down all existing capital punishment schemes be-cause the results they generated were arbitrary, discriminatory, and unreasoned. No member of that Court remains on the Court today, and the Court has grown increasingly conservative ever since. Nevertheless, impor-tant questions concerning the administration of capital punishment continue to wrought deep divisions within the Court, for instance in determining whether racial bias influences the system, in determining the sufficiency of new evidence of innocence to justify review of a defaulted claim in habeas corpus proceedings, in determining a ...


The Revolution Enters The Court: The Constitutional Significance Of Wrongful Convictions In Contemporary Constitutional Regulation Of The Death Penalty, Jordan Steiker Jan 2006

The Revolution Enters The Court: The Constitutional Significance Of Wrongful Convictions In Contemporary Constitutional Regulation Of The Death Penalty, Jordan Steiker

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

Over the last decade, the most important events in American death pen-alty law have occurred outside the courts. The discovery of numerous wrongfully convicted death-sentenced inmates in Illinois led to the most substantial reflection on the American death penalty system since the late 1960s and early 1970s. Former Illinois Governor George Ryan, a Republi-can, first declared a moratorium on executions in 2000 and eventually commuted all 167 inmates on Illinois’s death row in 2003. The events in Illinois reverberated nationwide. Almost overnight, state legislative agendas shifted from expanding or maintaining the prevailing reach of the death penalty to studying ...


Legitimizing Error, Rebecca E. Woodman Jan 2006

Legitimizing Error, Rebecca E. Woodman

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

Since Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court has sought to harmonize competing constitutional demands under Eighth Amendment rules regulat-ing the two-step eligibility and selection stages of the capital decision-making process. Furman’s demand for rationality and consistency requires that, at the eligibility stage, the sentencer’s discretion be limited and guided by clear and objective fact-based standards that rationally narrow the class of death-eligible defendants. The selection stage requires a determination of whether a specific death-eligible defendant actually deserves that punish-ment, as distinguished from other death-eligible defendants. Here, fundamental fairness and respect for the uniqueness of the individual are the ...


Putting The Guesswork Back Into Capital Sentencing, Sean D. O'Brien Jan 2006

Putting The Guesswork Back Into Capital Sentencing, Sean D. O'Brien

Michigan Law Review First Impressions

In 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court deemed it “incon-testable” that a death sentence is cruel and unusual if inflicted “by reason of [the defendant’s] race, religion, wealth, social position, or class, or if it is imposed under a procedure that gives room for the play of such prejudices.” Arbitrary and discriminatory patterns in capital sentencing moved the Court to strike down death penalty statutes that required judges or juries to cast thumbs-up or thumbs-down verdicts against offenders found guilty of capi-tal crimes. The issue of innocence was barely a footnote in Furman; the Court’s concerns ...