Last spring, in Graham v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a sentence of life without parole may not be imposed on a juvenile for a non-homicide crime. In so doing, the Court adopted a new, categorical approach to the Eighth Amendment analysis of non-capital sentences. Although the Court left much uncertain about when and how rigorously this new approach would employed, Graham held out the possibility of a major break from the highly deferential approach to the review of non-capital sentences that has prevailed at least since Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 (1991).
But, if an Eighth Amendment revolution is in the works, the Sixth and Ninth Circuits did not get the memo. In United States v. Graham (No. 08-5993), the Sixth Circuit upheld the use of a juvenile conviction as a predicate to the imposition of a life sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii). Continue reading “No Sign of a Graham Revolution in the Sixth or Ninth Circuits”