State's High Court Says Lifetime Parole For Juvenile Offender Is Not Cruel and Unusual

May 25, 2017

In a unanimous ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court says sentencing a juvenile to lifetime parole is not a cruel and unusual punishment.

When he was a 17-year-old, Bradley Graham committed statutory rape by having sex with a 13-year-old. In addition to incarceration, Graham was given a lifetime sentence of parole.

Graham says the lifetime aspect of his punishment is cruel and unusual, because he was a juvenile when he committed the crime.

The Iowa Supreme Court has previously ruled that sentencing a minor to a lifetime in prison without the possibility of parole for minors is not constitutional, because juveniles have a greater capacity for rehabilitation and diminished moral culpability. It has also said mandatory minimums without an individualized hearing for people under 18 are unconstitutional. 

But the court says for Graham, this argument doesn’t apply because he can petition the parole board for release.