Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of Arkansas in support of Lemuel Whiteside, who appealed his mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for his conviction as an accomplice in a felony murder when he was a juvenile.
Juvenile Law Center argued that the life without parole sentence violates the United States Constitution as well as international law. In Graham v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of a life without parole sentence imposed upon juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes. The Court held the sentence unconstitutional, grounding its decision in developmental and scientific research demonstrating that juveniles possess a greater capacity for rehabilitation, change and growth than adults, and reasoning that the sentence therefore served no legitimate penological purpose when applied to juveniles.
Juvenile Law Center's brief argued that Graham applied in this case as well, since these core differences distinguish juveniles and adults regardless of the type of crime at issue, especially where a juvenile is convicted of felony murder and there is no finding that the youth killed or intended to kill.