Using Graham v. Florida to Challenge Juvenile Transfer Laws
In October, 2011, CFYJ released Using Graham v. Florida to Challenge Juvenile Transfer Laws, authored by Neelum Arya, Research and Policy Director at the Campaign for Youth Justice. The article suggests that the recent Supreme Court opinion in Graham v. Florida abolishing life without parole sentences for juveniles (JLWOP) convicted of nonhomicide crimes, may be used to challenge juvenile transfer laws. Part I provides a description and analysis of the Graham opinion and reviews the Court's Eighth Amendment jurisprudence through to their recent ruling declaring JLWOP sentences for nonhomicide crimes unconstitutional. In Part II, Arya argues that youth have a right to rehabilitation found under the state's police power. In addition, Graham discusses three types of difficulties that adult decisionmakers in the criminal justice system have with respect to youth that may be useful to challenge transfer laws. First, judges and experts have problems evaluating the culpability and maturity of youth. Second, adult perceptions of youth are biased by the severity and manner in which the crimes were conducted. Third, counsel have difficulty representing youth in the adult system. Arya suggests these factors apply to all youth prosecuted in the adult criminal system, regardless of offense charged or sentence imposed. Finally, in Part III, Arya encourages lawyers to revisit these prior challenges in both individual cases and as part of impact litigation strategies to declare all transfer statutes, or portions of them, unconstitutional.