Daniel Jones

Document Type




This Note argues that the spirit of the trilogy prohibits courts from sentencing juvenile offenders, regardless of their crime(s), to de facto life sentences. This Note maintains that the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the relevant case law render de facto life sentences unconstitutional. Part I examines the history of juvenile sentencing laws and concludes that many of the laws currently in place are based on a misguided fear that juveniles are more culpable than adult offenders. Part I also examines the relevant Supreme Court Eighth Amendment jurisprudence as well as the competing theoretical arguments used by courts. Part II presents the split in federal and state courts interpretations of Roper, Graham, and Miller, and examines the conflicting approaches used by courts in deciding whether de facto life sentences of juvenile offenders are permissible. Part III asserts that de facto life sentences are unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment and the Supreme Court trilogy. Part III also concludes that in the absence of legislative compliance, state courts have a duty to apply the trilogy to de facto life sentences. Finally, Part IV sums up why courts and legislatures should ignore the letter of the law argument on de facto life sentences.



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