Neal Katyal: Key Graham v. Florida Stats Wrong

By Jason Beahm on June 02, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal recently notified the U.S. Supreme Court that a significant report cited in Graham v. Florida, the recent case about minors being sentenced to life without parole, was inaccurate. Katyal informed the Court in a letter that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) provided incorrect information in their report that stated that six juvenile prisoners were in prison for life without being convicted of murder.  

On May 17, in a major decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy issued a Supreme Court opinion finding that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment prohibits the sentencing of juveniles to life in prison without parole for crimes other than murder.

According to Neal Katyal's letter of May 24, "The government has conducted a careful review of the presentence investigation reports and other materials concerning these inmates... it appears that none of the six inmates listed in the attachment to BOP's letter is serving a life sentence based solely on a nonhomicide crime completed before the age of 18."

Katyal states that due to time constraints, the BOP originally released automated inmate records which were inaccurate. In fact, all of the six mentioned in the report were convicted of conspiracies that continued after their 18th birthday, or involved murder

Katyal did not submit a brief prior to the decision. Katyal apparently only learned of the BOP report after the Justice Anthony M. Kennedy issued the landmark Graham v. Florida decision.

The fact that the Solicitor General's office stayed out of the matter until now has created controversy in Washington. This matter is also significant, as it could play into the discussion of Solicitor General Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination. Typically the federal government provides important relevant information to the Supreme Court when the decision has a major legal impact.

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