Press Release

Morrison & Foerster Secures Supreme Court Victory in Eighth Amendment Case

17 May 2010
WASHINGTON D.C. (May 17, 2010) – Morrison & Foerster LLP today secured a significant victory at the U.S. Supreme Court for client Terrance Graham, who in 2006 was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a nonhomicide crime he committed when he was a juvenile. The U.S. Supreme Court today reversed the sentence on the basis that the Eighth Amendment precluded the State of Florida from sentencing a juvenile to life without the possibility of parole for a nonhomicide offense.

In reversing Mr. Graham’s sentence, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the Court, “The State has denied him any chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a nonhomicide crime that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law. This the Eighth Amendment does not permit.” The Court explained that States must “give defendants like Graham some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”

“The Court recognizes that children offenders are fundamentally different from adults, and the law needs to recognize that many of these children are capable of rehabilitation,” said Morrison & Foerster partner Brian Matsui, who represented Mr. Graham.  “The Constitution does not permit states to so easily give up on children.”

Along with Mr. Matsui, the Morrison & Foerster winning team included Of Counsel Drew S. Days III and Seth M. Galanter, partner George C. Harris, and associates Marc A. Hearron, Jeremy M. McLaughlin, Michael W. Maas, Robert W. Giles, and John A. Trocki III. The firm handled the case pro bono with co-counsel Bryan Gowdy of Mills Creed & Gowdy in Jacksonville, Florida.
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