Jacksonville man key to Supreme Court ruling on juvenile life sentences gets 25 years

It was Terrance Jamar Graham’s case that led the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago to ban life sentences for juveniles who don’t kill anyone. And while many others have benefited and seen reduced sentences since the 2010 ruling, Graham’s day came last week for his life sentence to be cut down. Graham’s criminal defense attorney argued for 15 years, but the Jacksonville judge handed down 25 years for Graham, now 24, in connection with an armed robbery he committed when he was 16, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel. Graham will be 42 when he’s released in 2029, the newspaper reported. Graham was convicted in a restaurant robbery at age 16 and sentenced to probation. A year later, he violated that probation as one of three people involved in a home invasion. He was sentenced to life without parole.

Graham’s appeals pushed the case all the way to the Supreme Court. The initial ruling was a landmark case, especially in Florida – the state home to more than half of the people nationwide sentenced to life without parole as juveniles for non-homicide cases.
The Supreme Court ruled life without parole in non-homicide cases was cruel and unusual punishment. But the direction from the high court and the state legislature has been very limited, Circuit Judge Lance Day said in sentencing Graham on Friday, the newspaper reported. Day gave Graham the initial life sentence.

Adult sentences for juveniles have been hot topics in Jacksonville lately, especially with then-12-year-old Cristian Fernandez being charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 2-year-old half-brother. He is the youngest person in Florida to be charged with first-degree murder. Graham’s name, and sentence, has come up several times in court hearings regarding Fernandez, as an example of the displeasure the high court has taken with sentences for juveniles.

Our Jacksonville juvenile defense law firm has represented hundreds of juveniles, including many charged with serious crimes and facing serious time. Sentencing can be even more crucial in juvenile cases because there are options for the judge – such as youthful offender sentences – that are not available for adult defendants when minimum-mandatory sentences apply.

If you or a loved one needs a juvenile defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.