Bunch v. Bobby
NJDC and the Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief supporting a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of Chaz Bunch, who received a sentence of 89 years for a non-homicide offense for which he was charged at age 16. Because Ohio does not provide any opportunity for parole, Chaz would not have been eligible for release until he turned 105. The brief argued that this case raised a question of exceptional importance regarding the application of Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama.
The Court ruled in Graham that juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life without parole without a meaningful and realistic opportunity to re-enter society prior to the expiration of their sentences for non-homicide offenses. Graham held that a sentence that provides no “meaningful opportunity to obtain release” before the end of the child’s life is unconstitutional. Because this sentence meant that Chaz would die in prison, the brief urged the Court to clarify the unconstitutionality of a life-long term-of-years sentence. Further, the brief noted that despite the Court’s clear and commonsense rulings in Graham, lower courts are split on how to apply Graham to sentences that preclude any meaningful opportunity for release, but are not labeled “life without parole.” Amici shared a deep concern that without the Court’s clarification many juveniles would be subject to sentences that violate the Eighth Amendment and are at odds with the Court’s jurisprudence related to children and adolescents.
Unfortunately, the Court denied certiorari in April 2013.
Amicus Brief in Support Certiorari Petition Filed: December 5, 2012 (download .pdf)
Certiorari Denied: April 22, 2013
Amicus Brief Discusses: Functional Equivalent of Juvenile Life Without Parole; Sentencing