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School of Law
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Robert A. Leflar Law Center
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University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701

Phone: (479) 575-5601

Professor Gallini explores whether sentencing a juvenile accomplice who played a minimal role in a homicide to life without the possibility of parole is cruel and unusual punishment

By · June 5, 2013 · 2013 Ark. L. Notes 1015
In categories: Criminal Law, Juvenile Justice & Child Welfare, Snapshot

The University of Arkansas’s Research Frontiers online magazine recently featured a story about University of Arkansas law professor Brian Gallini. The story focused on Professor Gallini’s visionary research into the United States Supreme Court’s precedent concerning the United States Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which protects defendants from cruel and unusual punishment. In his article, Equal Sentences for Unequal Participation: Should the Eighth Amendment Allow All Juvenile Murder Accomplices to Receive Life Without Parole?, 87 Or. L. Rev. 29 (2008), Professor Gallini explores whether sentencing a juvenile accomplice who played a minimal role in a homicide to life without the possibility of parole is cruel and unusual punishment. The United States Supreme Court considered this question in the 2012 case, Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012).

Professor Gallini’s article begins by illustrating the problematic nature of imposing mandatory life sentences on less culpable juvenile non-killers who have been convicted of first degree murder.  To do so, he offers examples of defendants who received identical sentences yet played very different roles in the victim’s death. Next, he outlines the evolution of the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Eighth Amendment’s “cruel and unusual” clause and the clause’s application to juveniles. Finally, he asserts that automatically sentencing juvenile non-killers to life in prison without the possibility of parole renders lower courts unable to either individualize the juvenile’s sentence or exercise judicial discretion in an effort to do so.

In short, Professor Gallini’s analysis highlights the shortcomings of the Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence and has been recognized as a fundamental reading in understanding the Court’s reasoning in Miller v. Alabama.

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