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Moot Court Brief Essay

2081 words - 9 pages


“The Eighth Amendment, which applies against the States by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment provides: ‘Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.’” Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957, 962 (1991). The “cruel and unusual punishments clause” of the Eighth Amendment was “directed at prohibiting certain methods of punishment.” Id. at 979 (quoting Granucci, "Nor Cruel and Unusual Punishments Inflicted:" The ...view middle of the document...

” Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815 (1988) (plurality opinion). In a similar analysis, the Court noted that certain objective factors should be considered such as the “precedent” and “legislative attitudes.” Coker, 433 U.S. at 592. In Harmelin, the Court stated that “the most prominent objective factor is the type of punishment imposed.” 501 U.S. at 1000. Lastly, the Supreme Court has recognized that “intrajurisdictional and interjurisdictional analyses are appropriate only in the rare case in which a threshold comparison of the crime committed and the sentence imposed leads to an inference of gross disproportionality.” Id. at 1005.
The present case involves a term-of-years sentence that Smith is challenging under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Because of the reasons previously stated Smith’s challenge will be assessed based on the proportionality principle, which will look at objective factors in order to determine whether the sentence is in gross disproportion to the crime.
The first objective criterion that should be considered is whether the comparison of this crime and sentence is against legislative attitudes. See Coker, 433 U.S. at 592. According to a recent study, a majority of states allow the sentence of life without parole to juveniles as young as thirteen. See Equal Justice Initiative, Cruel and Unusual: Sentencing 13 and 14 Year-old Children to Die in Prison, (2007), available at Accordingly, it is clear that the legislature is not in opposition to a sentence of life without parole for juveniles, since the majority of states allow such a sentence.
The next objective criterion that will be analyzed is whether the sentence in comparison to the crime is against precedent. Coker, 433 U.S. at 592. In Ewing v. California, the defendant was sentenced to 25 years to life under the states recidivist law after being convicted of three burglaries and a robbery. 538 U.S. 11, 20 (2003). The defendant appealed his sentence, claiming that it was “grossly disproportionate under the Eighth Amendment.” Id. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and affirmed the decision. Id.
The Supreme Court, in plurality, recognized that the Eighth Amendment “contains a ‘narrow proportionality principle’ that ‘applies to non-capital sentences.”’ Id. (quoting Harmelin, 501 U.S. at 996, 997). In addition, “this Court ‘has on occasion stated that the Eighth Amendment prohibits imposition of a sentence that is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime.”’ Id. at 21 (quoting Rummel v. Estelle, 445 U.S. at 271). The Court further exclaimed that the “constitutional principle of proportionality has been recognized explicitly in [the Supreme Court] for almost a century.” Id. at 22 (quoting Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. 277, 284, 286 (1983)).
The Supreme Court held that the defendant’s case “is not ‘the rare case in...

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