U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Decision Barring Life Without Parole for Kids Convicted of Attempted MurderOctober 14, 2011

The United States Supreme Court this week denied the Florida Attorney General's request for review in Ian Manuel's case, upholding the Florida Court of Appeal's decision that juveniles convicted of attempted murder cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Ian Manuel was 13 when he was arrested and subsequently sentenced to two life sentences without parole for attempted murder. EJI took on Ian's case and argued that it is cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a 13-year-old child to die in prison.

While Ian's case was pending on appeal, the United States Supreme Court decided in Graham v. Florida that, for most offenses, children cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

The State of Florida argued that Graham applies only to nonhomicide cases, and not to cases like Ian's, because attempted murder is a homicide offense even though no one is killed.

The Florida appeals court rejected that argument, holding that "simple logic dictates that attempted murder is a nonhomicide offense because death, by definition, has not occurred." The court concluded that "Graham's holding forbidding a sentence of life without parole for a juvenile nonhomicide offender applies to Mr. Manuel and requires us to vacate his life-without-parole sentences."

The Florida Supreme Court denied the State's request for review, and the State then asked the United States Supreme Court to review the case. The Court's decision this week to deny review makes final the state appellate court's ruling that Ian's sentence is unconstitutional and he must now be resentenced.