Catholic University Law Review


Thomas Garrity


There currently exists a split amongst the Federal Circuit Courts that stands ripe for review. The Supreme Court laid down clear precedent in its landmark decisions of Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, and Miller v. Alabama that capital punishment and life without parole are cruel and unusual as applied to juvenile non-homicidal offenders categorically and as applied to juvenile homicidal offenders without consideration of youth as a mitigating factor. There, however, was a door left open by these cases that allowed for judges to side-step the Court’s mandate. Using excessively long term-of-years sentences—longer than the most hopeful of estimates of the life expectancy of those being sentenced—courts are handing down de facto life sentences upon juvenile offenders and claiming that this technicality serves as an exception to the Supreme Court’s precedent. This Comment examines the current split amongst the circuits and presents a solution to the split based upon concerns of practicality, consistency, and closure of a loophole, arguing for the majority approach—that de facto life sentences are cruel and unusual as applied to non-homicidal juvenile offenders.