In Mississippi Case, EJI Continues to Challenge Death in Prison Sentences for Children


Update: EJI lawyers argued the case of Demarious Banyard in the Mississippi Supreme Court on Monday, June 14, 2010. Demarious has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in Mississippi for an offense when he was just 13 years old. EJI is continuing to challenge death-in-prison sentences imposed on children in cases across the country.

On May 17, 2010, EJI’s litigation campaign challenging life imprisonment without parole for children achieved a major victory when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Graham v. Florida that it is cruel and unusual to sentence juveniles to life without parole when they commit nonhomicide offenses.

The ruling in Graham, which was argued with EJI’s case, Sullivan v. Florida, means that people who were sentenced to life without parole for nonhomicide offenses as children are entitled to review and must be given a “meaningful opportunity” for release. EJI client Joe Sullivan is one of several 13-year-old nonhomicide offenders whose death-in-prison sentence was invalidated by Graham.

Demarious Banyard is one of hundreds of juveniles nationwide who remain sentenced to life without parole because they were convicted of a homicide offense. He is the only 13-year-old in Mississippi sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

The Mississippi Supreme Court granted EJI’s request to review Demarious’s sentence and his conviction, which was tainted by racial bias and illegal jury instructions. During jury selection for his trial, the State insisted, and the judge agreed, that a certain number of white people remain on the jury.