A study conducted by Florida State University College of Law Professor Paolo Annino and the school’s Public Interest Law Center was cited repeatedly by members of the United States Supreme Court in a landmark decision issued Monday, May 17.
The case, Graham v. Florida, challenged whether Florida’s sentencing of juveniles to life without parole in non-homicide cases is constitutional. In writing the majority opinion, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy several times cited and relied on Annino’s study, “Juvenile Life Without Parole for Non-Homicide Offenses: Florida Compared to Nation.” Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor concurred with Kennedy’s opinion. Justice Stevens and Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. each also wrote concurring opinions.
Annino, David W. Rasmussen, dean of FSU’s College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and research assistant and law school graduate Chelsea Boehme Rice conducted the study in July 2009, with assistance from law student Jessica Schuh Harmsen. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Graham v. Florida in November.
The study found 109 teenage offenders nationally received life without parole sentences and 77 of them were in Florida as of September 2009.
“The Supreme Court in Graham recognized that kids are different and that entails that children are to be treated differently from adults. Now, these teenage offenders have a second chance,” Annino said. “I want to thank the Florida Bar Foundation and specifically Executive Director Jane Curran and Paul Doyle, the director of Legal Assistance to the Poor and Law Student Assistance grant programs, for their support and clear direction.”
“Thanks to The Florida Bar Foundation, Professor Annino has made our students an important part of this historic work,” said College of Law Dean Don Weidner.