State v. Moore, No. 2014-0120, — N.E.3d —, 2016 WL 7448751 (Ohio Dec. 22, 2016) – Defendant, age 15 at the time of the crimes, was convicted after a jury trial of 12 non-homicide offenses including rape, kidnapping, and robbery. He ultimately received an aggregate sentence of 112 years’ imprisonment, pursuant to which he would become eligible for file a motion for judicial release after serving 77 years, 5 years after the completion of the mandatory portion of his sentence, at which time he would be 92 years old. After his initial appeal was denied, defendant filed a (years-delayed) motion for reconsideration, citing Graham and Miller. The court of appeals denied his application for reconsideration, and defendant appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Ohio Supreme Court determined that the court of appeals abused its discretion in not granting Moore’s application for reconsideration in light of the intervening decision in Graham. It concluded that Graham’s categorical prohibition of JLWOP sentences applied to juvenile nonhomicide offenders like defendant who are sentenced to term-of-year sentences that exceed their life expectancies. Here, defendant would not become eligible for release until age 92, well beyond his life expectancy of 69.9 years.
The Ohio Supreme Court explained that although Graham did not establish a limit to how long a juvenile can remain imprisoned before getting the chance to demonstrate maturity and rehabilitation, “it is clear that the court intended more than to simply allow juveniles-turned-nonagenarians the opportunity to breathe their last breaths as free people.” Instead, Graham sought to permit juvenile nonhomicide offenders the opportunity to leave prison and live part of their lives in society. As the Ohio Supreme Court explained, “it does not take an entire lifetime for a juvenile offender to earn a first chance to demonstrate that he is not irredeemable.” Thus, Graham applied not only to true LWOP sentences, but also to term of years sentences that extend beyond an offender’s life expectancy. Indeed, as in Graham, the court explained, the defendant was convicted of nonhomicide offenses committed as a juvenile and thus has twice-diminished moral culpability. The principles underlying Graham, including the lessened moral culpability of juveniles and the inapplicability of penological justifications for life sentences for juveniles, applied here with equal force. The Ohio Supreme Court could thus find no consequential distinction between the LWOP sentence in Graham and the 112-year aggregate sentence – “functionally a life sentence,” imposed here. It explained: “The court in Graham was not barring a terminology – “life without parole” – but rather a punishment that removes a juvenile from society without a meaningful chance to demonstrate rehabilitation and obtain release.” Defendant’s aggregate sentence, imposed for multiple offenses, did not require a different result. The Ohio Supreme Court explained hat the defendant in Graham had himself committed multiple offenses, and that Graham does not limit its holding to juveniles sentenced for one offense only. “Instead, the protections in Graham apply to juveniles who do not commit homicide,” including defendant. “To suggest that a life-without-parole sentence would be permissible for a juvenile who committed multiple offenses would be to ignore the categorical restriction against that penalty for juveniles who do not commit homicide.”
In sum, because defendant’s 112-year sentence violated the Eighth Amendment, judgment was reversed, defendant’s sentence was vacated, and the case was remanded for resentencing in conformity with Graham.