Florida Appeals Court Rules Juveniles Convicted of Attempted Murder Can’t be Sentenced to Life Imprisonment Without Parole


On October 29, 2010, EJI won a unanimous ruling from a Florida Court of Appeal which concluded that juveniles convicted of attempted murder cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole under the Eighth Amendment and Graham v. Florida. Ian Manuel was 13 when he was arrested and subsequently sentenced to two life sentences without parole for attempted murder. The Court ruled that Ian’s sentence is unconstitutional and that he must now be resentenced.

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 not a nonhomicide 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.”

When Ian Manuel was 13 years old, he was directed by older juveniles to commit a robbery. During the botched robbery attempt, a woman suffered a nonfatal gunshot wound. Ian turned himself in to the police and was charged as an adult with armed robbery and attempted murder.

Ian’s attorney instructed him to plead guilty and told him he would receive a 15-year sentence. Ian accepted responsibility for his actions and pleaded guilty but was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The victim has forgiven Ian and petitioned for his release.