Brief filed: 06/10/2020
State v. Booker
Supreme Court of Tennessee; Case No. E2018-01439-SC-R1-CD
Decision below, State v. Booker, No. E2018-01439-CCA-R3-CD, 2020 WL 1697367 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 8, 2020)
Tennessee’s sentencing statute for first-degree murder, which mandatorily imposes a minimum 51-year term of prison confinement on a juvenile, without consideration of the teenager’s youth and immaturity or other mitigating circumstances, violates the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clauses and other provisions of the federal and state constitutions. In Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. 460 (2016), the United States Supreme Court held that, in light of contemporary understanding of adolescent psychology and brain development, it is unconstitutional to mandatorily deprive a juvenile offender of “a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” Because a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for 51 years exceeds the expected life-span of offenders sentenced at a young age, it does not provide young offenders with the “meaningful opportunity” for release contemplated by the Supreme Court of the United States. A majority of state court decisions from outside Tennessee have held that term-of-years sentences of over fifty years do not provide young offenders with a meaningful opportunity for release. Further, after Miller and Montgomery, numerous state legislatures have enacted juvenile sentencing and parole procedures allowing juveniles the opportunity for parole within a much shorter time period.
Lucille A. Jewel, University of Tennessee College of Law, and Stephen Ross Johnson, Ritchie, Dillard, Davies, & Johnson, Knoxville, TN; Jonathan D. Cooper, Knoxville, TN (for amicus curiae Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers); David R. Esquivel, Jeff H. Gibson, Sarah Miller, Angela Bergman, Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, Nashville, TN (for amicus curiae Charles Lowe-Kelley); Bradley A. MacLean, Nashville, TN (for amicus curiae Amos Booker)