The Supreme Court granted review today in two cases revolving around whether or not sentencing children to long-term prison sentences for non-capital crimes constitutes cruel and unusual punishment as defined by the Eight Amendment.
In Sullivan v. Florida, Joe Sullivan was 13-years old when convicted of raping an elderly woman and in Graham v. Florida, 17-year old Terrance Graham participated in an armed burglary while he was already on probation. Interestingly enough, the Court did not consolidate the two cases, meaning they will hear oral arguments in the two separately and reserve the opportunity to file separate opinions.
From time to time, the Court will grant review in separate, but similar, cases without consolidating for review. The most notable examples in recent memory would be the separate review of affirmative action cases Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger and ten-commandments monument cases Van Orden v. Perry and McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. In both sets of cases, the Supreme Court drew important distinctions between the two cases based on the specific facts of the case. I haven’t had a chance to see any of the filings in the case yet, but as they become available, we might get a better idea of the types of distinctions that could be made in the case.