People v. Walker

Juvenile Law Center and the Civitas ChildLaw Clinic filed an amicus brief in the Appellate Court of Illinois, Third Judicial District on behalf of James Walker, who was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for his role in a homicide that occurred in 1984 when he was 17 years old. Juvenile Law center’s brief argued that Mr. Walker’s sentence was unconstitutional pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama, which banned mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles.

Specifically, our brief argued that, pursuant to Miller, juveniles facing life without parole must receive individualized sentencing hearings at which the sentencer considers the juvenile’s youth as a mitigating factor. In Mr. Walker’s case, the record does not reflect how, if at all, the trial court considered how his young age counseled against sentencing him to life without parole. Miller establishes a presumption against imposing juvenile life without parole sentences and a presumption of immaturity for juvenile offenders. Additionally, our brief argued that in Mr. Walker’s case, the sentencing court attached disproportionate weight to the nature of the offense, allowing mitigation factors to be overwhelmed. Finally, our brief argued that imposition of a life without parole sentence was unconstitutionally arbitrary and capricious.

The Appellate Court of Illiniois held that Mr. Walker’s sentence does not violate Miller or the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution.