Amicus Briefs Filed in 2014

The Amicus Curiae Committee’s mission is to provide amicus assistance on the federal and state level in those cases that present issues of importance to criminal defendants, criminal defense lawyers, and/or the criminal justice system as a whole. Membership in NACDL is not a prerequisite either for amicus assistance from the Committee, or for authorship of an NACDL amicus brief.


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Illinois v. Pacheco

Brief of Juvenile Law Center, Loyola Civitas Childlaw Clinic, et al., as Amici Curiae in Support of Defendant-Appellant (full list of amici in Appendix A to attached brief).

Argument: U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence demonstrates that the automatic prosecution and mandatory sentencing of certain youth charged with murder as adults is unconstitutional. Under U.S. Supreme Court case law, Illinois’s transfer and mandatory sentencing statutes are unconstitutional because they do not allow for individualized sentencing of minors transferred to adult court and convicted of murder. Youth are fundamentally different from adults in constitutionally relevant ways. The Illinois automatic transfer and mandatory sentencing statutes are unconstitutional because they do not permit a sentencing court to consider the individual maturity and degree of culpability of each youth convicted of murder. The U.S. Supreme Court’s “kids are different” jurisprudence is not limited to a particular type of crime, sentence or constitutional provision. Illinois’ statutory scheme is unconstitutional because it subjects youth who were not principally responsible – such as those charged with felony murder or those charged under an accountability theory – to automatic transfer to adult court and mandatory sentencing without a court’s consideration of the constitutionally relevant attributes of adolescence. Illinois’s statutory scheme departs from national norms. Illinois is an outlier because its statutes require certain youth to be tried in adult court based on age and charge alone, without the opportunity for a court to make an individualized determination as to whether juvenile court jurisdiction would be more appropriate based on the youth’s unique degree of culpability and capacity for change and rehabilitation. Public policy and public opinion overwhelmingly opposes the automatic transfer to adult court and mandatory imposition of adult sentences without judicial review of the individual youth’s degree of culpability and amenability to rehabilitation.

Kendrick v. Tennessee

Brief of Amici Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers & Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Support of the Appellee.

Argument: The United States Supreme Court’s recent analysis in Hinton v. Alabama of defense counsel’s responsibilities to investigate and obtain expert assistance directly applies to this case. In Baxter v. Rose this court outlines a reasonableness standard for ineffective counsel comparing counsel’s actions to a range of competence demanded of attorneys in a criminal case. Hinton v. Alabama applies a reasonableness standard which requires trial counsel to research scientific and technical evidence essential to the defense of the case in order to be within the range of competence demanded of criminal defense attorneys. Investigation of the prosecution’s proposed scientific or technical evidence on critical facts essential to the defense is a necessary part of rendering constitutionally adequate counsel. Counsel’s investigation of forensic sciences and techniques related to a fact essential to a defense is critical because of the powerful impact expert testimony has at trial. The National Research Council of the National Academy of Science’s report on the forensic science community highlights the shortcomings of the field as well as the powerful impact that faulty forensic science can have on those accused of a crime. Extensive research has shown a positive correlation between faulty forensic science testimony and the wrongful conviction of those accused of a crime.

People v. Carp; People v. Davis; People v. Eliason

Brief of Juvenile Law Center, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, et al. as amici curiae In Support of Appellants Carp, Davis and Eliason (full list of amici in appendix to attached brief).

Argument: Miller reaffirms the U.S. Supreme Court’s recognition that children are categorically less deserving of the harshest forms of punishments. Miller v. Alabama applies retroactively. Miller is retroactive because Kuntrell Jackson received the same relief on collateral review. Miller applies retroactively pursuant to Teague v. LaneMiller is retroactive because it announces a substantive rule that categorically prohibits the imposition of mandatory life without parole on all juvenile offenders. Miller is retroactive because it involves a substantive interpretation of the Eighth Amendment that reflects the Supreme Court’s evolving understanding of child and adolescent development. Miller is a "watershed rule" under Teague. Once the Court declares a particular sentence "cruel and unusual" when imposed on a juvenile, the continued imposition of that sentence violates the Eighth Amendment. Any life without parole sentences for a juvenile who did not kill or intend to kill is inconsistent with adolescent development and neuroscience research and unconstitutional pursuant to Miller and Graham. Intent to kill cannot be inferred when a juvenile is convicted of felony murder. Any life without parole sentence for a juvenile convicted of felony murder is unconstitutional pursuant to Miller and Graham. All juveniles convicted of murder in Michigan are entitled to individualized sentences that presumptively provide a meaningful opportunity for release.