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Illinois Supreme Court Draws A Line At 40 Years For "Life" Sentences Imposed On Youth

The Illinois Supreme Court, in the case of People v. Dimitri Buffer, held Thursday that Buffer's 50-year sentence, which was imposed for an offense that occurred when he was 16, violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The court determined that a sentence over 40 years is an unconstitutional "de facto" life sentence for a youth under the age of 18 when it is imposed without consideration of the defendant's "youth and attendant characteristics."

The Children and Family Justice Center filed an amicus brief in support of Buffer, which was authored by clinical associate professor Shobha Mahadev and staff attorney Scott Main. CFJC students Sarah Aagard and Kristen Froese assisted in the drafting of the brief.

In the amicus brief, the CFJC argued that, because children are redeemable, Illinois' sentencing structure at the time of Buffer's offense contravened the core principles of the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in Miller v. Alabama and Montgomery v. Louisiana, by subjecting them to sentences that ignored their youth and immense potential for rehabilitation.

Thursday's decision is the most recent pronouncement by Illinois' highest court recognizing the youth-centered approach to sentencing required by U.S. Supreme Court decisions over the last decade. Chris Gehrke, Assistant Appellate Defender at the Office of the State Appellate Defender, First District, represented Buffer.

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See also:

* Injustice Watch: Illinois Supreme Court Rules That 41-Year Term For Juvenile Offender Amounts To Life.

* Daily Law Bulletin: 50-Year Sentence Tossed By High Court.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on April 20, 2019


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