Casiano v. Commissioner, 115 A.3d 1031 (Conn. 2015) – Juvenile defendant (age 16 at time of crime) was convicted by guilty plea of felony murder, attempted robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery. He was sentenced to a total effective term of 50 years without the possibility of parole. On collateral appeal, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held that a 50-year sentence falls within Miller’s individualized sentencing mandate. The court reasoned that the “focus in Graham and Miller was not on the label of a life sentence but rather on whether a juvenile would, as a consequence of a lengthy sentence without the possibility of parole, actually be imprisoned for the rest of his life.” (internal quotations and citation omitted). The court rejected “the notion that, in order for a sentence to be deemed ‘life imprisonment,’ it must continue until the literal end of one’s life.” The court emphasized:
A juvenile offender is typically put behind bars before he has had the chance to exercise the rights and responsibilities of adulthood, such as establishing a career, marrying, raising a family, or voting. Even assuming the juvenile offender does live to be released, after a half century of incarceration, he will have irreparably lost his opportunity to engage meaningfully in many of these activities and will be left with seriously diminished prospects for his quality of life for the few years he has left. A juvenile offender’s release when he is in his late sixties comes at an age when the law presumes that he no longer has productive employment prospects. Indeed, the offender will be age-qualified for Social Security benefits without ever having had the opportunity to participate in gainful employment . . . Any such prospects will also be diminished by the increased risk for certain diseases and disorders that arise with more advanced age, including heart disease, hypertension, stroke, asthma, chronic bronchitis, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. . . . The [U.S.] Supreme Court viewed the concept of “life” in Miller and Graham more broadly than biological survival; it implicitly endorsed the notion that an individual is effectively incarcerated for “life” if he will have no opportunity to truly reenter society or have any meaningful life outside of prison . . . . In light of the foregoing statistics and their practical effect, a fifty year term and its grim prospects for any future outside of prison effectively provide a juvenile offender with no chance for fulfillment outside prison walls, no chance for reconciliation with society, no hope.
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, the court concluded that “we do not regard the juvenile’s potential future release in his or her late sixties after a half century of incarceration sufficient to escape the rationales of Graham or Miller.” The court held that “the procedures set forth in Miller must be followed when considering whether to sentence a juvenile offender to fifty years imprisonment without parole.” Reversed and remanded.