Stanford v. Kentucky
Five years later, in
Graham v. Florida
the Court was asked to extend
anddeclare that the Eighth Amendment also forbids sentencing juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole in a nonhomicide case. The Court did indeed rule that the Eighth Amendment prohibits such sentences but, in doing so, issued an opinion that goes well beyond the parameters of Eighth Amendment jurisprudence.Before discussing the decision itself, it is important to appreciate how immaterial death penaltydecisions are to sentencing reviews not involving the death penalty. “Death is different” has been a bedrock principle of Eighth Amendment jurisprudence since the Court first held in 1972 that the death penalty violates the Constitution except in carefully defined circumstances.
This means, most of all,that capital sentences are reviewed with extremely careful scrutiny. In contrast, review of sentences for noncapital cases have been “so deferential to state interests as to make Eighth Amendment challenges toexcessive incarceration essentially non-starters.”
Consequently, the extension of
means that, for the first time, the Constitution requires that sentences of juveniles not involving the death penalty receive careful scrutiny as well.
involved two formal questions, consistent with the Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence in the non-juvenile context. First, the Court determines whether a sentence is categoricallyforbidden because it is inconsistent with “‘the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of amaturing society,’”
by investigating “whether there is a national consensus against the sentencing
492 U.S. 361 (1989).
130 S.Ct. 2011 (2010).
Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 306 (Stewart, J., concurring) (“The penalty of death differs from all other forms of criminal punishment, not in degree but in kind. It is unique in its total irrevocability. It is unique in itsrejection of rehabilitation of the convict as a basic purpose of criminal justice. And it is unique, finally, in itsabsolute renunciation of all that is embodied in our concept of humanity”).
Carol S. Steiker & Jordan M. Steiker,
Opening a Window or Building a Wall? The Effect of Eighth Amendment Death Penalty Law and Advocacy on Criminal Justice More Broadly
, 11 U.
L. 155, 184 (2008).
Markus Dirk Dubber,
Recidivist Statutes As Arational Punishment
, 43 B
. 689, 713–714 (1995) (“the‘death is different’ campaign of opponents of capital punishment [has] won capital defendants certain additional protections, but only at the considerable cost of lumping together all other penalties under the rubric of ‘noncapital’ punishments, thereby effectively shielding incarceration from constitutional scrutiny.”).
, at 2021 (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976) (quoting Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101(1958) (plurality opinion)).