Cruz v. United States
Luis Noel Cruz was sentenced to mandatory life without parole for crimes committed shortly after he turned 18 and related to gang membership which he became involved in at the age of 15. Following the Miller and Montgomery decisions, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut granted Luis's petition to vacate his sentence, holding that "the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for offenders who were 18 years old at the time of their crimes." The United States appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief in support of Luis. Our brief argued that the imposition of a mandatory life sentence on an 18-year-old violates the Eighth Amendment because young adults possess the same relevant characteristics as youth under 18 and courts post-Miller have consistently found older adolescents and young adults less deserving of the harshest penalties.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned the trial court and remanded the case for reinstatement of Luis’s original life without parole sentence relying on its earlier decision in United States v. Sierra which held that mandatory life sentences for individuals 18 years old or older do not violate the Eighth Amendment.