EJI Wins Right to Challenge Death-in-Prison Sentence Imposed on Virginia Child


Ronald Evans was sentenced to life in federal prison with no possibility of parole for drug offenses that occurred in Norfolk, Virginia, when he was 17. EJI last week won the right to challenge Ronald’s sentence as a violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Graham v. Florida, which bans life-without-parole sentences for juvenile nonhomicide offenders.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard argument on EJI’s motion to permit review of Ronald’s case under the Supreme Court’s new rule. The government opposed the motion and argued that Ronald should not be allowed to challenge the constitutionality of his sentence.

The court agreed with EJI that Ronald showed he is entitled to challenge his sentence under Graham. It ruled that Ronald “made a ‘prima facie showing’ that his ‘claim relies on a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable,'” and granted his motion for authorization to file a successive habeas application.

EJI will now argue in the federal trial court that Ronald Evans’s life-without-parole sentence for a juvenile nonhomicide crime is cruel and unusual punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment and requires relief under Graham.

The Court’s decision in Evans now means that appeals courts in the Fourth, Fifth, and Eleventh Circuits have concluded that Graham v. Florida is to be applied retroactively to any juvenile serving a sentence of life imprisonment without parole for a nonhomicide offense.