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State v. Zuber (A-54-15, A-63-15) (filed 1/11/17) New Jersey Supreme Court finds “functional equivalent” of Life sentence violates Graham and Miller.

January 13th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Another state gets on board with this unanimous opinion (following in the footsteps of California, Ohio, Florida, Louisiana, Iowa, Wyoming, Connecticut, and Illinois) and holds that an inmate’s sentence of 110 years with 55 years of parole ineligibility, imposed on him for crimes committed when he was 17, violates Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010) and Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. __, 132 S. Ct. 2455(2012).

The New Jersey Supreme Court recognizes (yet again) that the Supreme Court has recognized “the mitigating qualities of youth” and directed judges to consider a number of factors at sentencing including immaturity and “failure to appreciate risks and consequences”; “family and home environment”; family and peer pressures; “an inability to deal with police officers and prosecutors” or the juvenile’s own attorney; and “the possibility of rehabilitation.”  Miller at 2467-68.

I don’t think there’s any question but that the consensus developing throughout the country is that sentences imposing a “functional equivalent” of a life sentence violate the Constitution.  Let’s hope that South Carolina soon jumps on board.

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