A Look at History: Graham v. Florida

A Look at History: Graham v. Florida

This edition of Famous Court Cases deals with a more recent event – Graham v. Florida. This case dealt with the issue of juvenile offenders and the fact that they cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for offenses that don’t involve homicide.  The case dealt with one Terrance Graham, a sixteen year old charged of armed burglary and attempted armed robbery.


Terrance Graham was born on January 6, 1987. Together with two accomplices, he made an attempt to rob a barbecue restaurant in Florida. It took place in July of 2003 when he was just sixteen years old. For the crime, he was charged with both robbery attempt and armed burglary as well, which includes assault and battery. Despite his age, Graham received trial as an adult. Six months after that, he he came under arrest on the charge of home invasion robbery. Despite his denial when it came to his involvement, he acknowledged the violation of this plea agreement. In 2006, he received a life sentence without parole. This happened because the state of Florida had abolished parole.

A picture of Terrance Graham || Image Source: askthejudge.info

The Opinion of the Court

Justice Kennedy delivered the court's opinion:

‘The Constitution prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide. A State need not guarantee the offender eventual release, but if it imposes a sentence of life it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term. The judgment of the First District Court of Appeal of Florida is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.’

Further Developments

On May 17, 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled five to four that the sentencing of a juvenile to life in prison without any possible of parole for a crime unrelated to homicide is unconstitutional. Furthermore, it is found that the sentence is a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on what can be described as cruel and unusual punishments. This is specifically true if a youth had no intention to kill and did not kill at all. By February of 2012, Terrance Graham was provided with a new sentence which gave him a twenty-five year sentence. The original trial judge was responsible for this re-sentencing.

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