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Tennessee has long been considered the harshest in the nation regarding its treatment of minors convicted of first-degree murder. After the United States Supreme Court determined that automatic life sentences for juveniles violated the Eighth Amendment in Miller v. Alabama, many states began the process of reforming their sentencing statutes. Tennessee did not follow this trend, as the law on the books did not prescribe a “life sentence” to youthful homicide offenders. Rather, Tennessee’s sentencing statute automatically sentenced juveniles convicted of first-degree murder to a lengthy “term of years,” and as a result, did not fall within the reach of the Miller decision. However, in the November 2022 decision in State v. Booker, the Tennessee Supreme Court reviewed the statute and determined that it was, in fact, unconstitutional. This note will provide a background of the relevant juvenile jurisprudence prior to Booker, examine why Booker was necessary and what it means for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder in Tennessee, and discuss possible directions for Tennessee to move forward following Booker.
Blake Lee, J.D.,
It’s About Time: Tennessee’s Modernization of Juvenile Sentencing and Where to Go from Here,
Lincoln Mem’l U. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lmunet.edu/lmulrev/vol10/iss3/4