STATE OF NEW JERSEY VS. RICKY ZUBER
The United States Supreme Court has held that the Eighth Amendment forbids the sentence of life without parole for a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide. Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 74, 130 S. Ct. 2011, 2030, 176 L. Ed. 2d 825, 845 (2010). We hold that Graham applies retroactively.
Assuming Graham can be extended to aggregate term-of-years sentences imposed consecutively for separate criminal episodes, defendant's aggregate sentence of fifty-five years before parole eligibility is not the "functional equivalent" of life without parole. His sentence gives him a meaningful and realistic opportunity for parole well within the predicted lifespan for a person of defendant's age.
This predicted lifespan should be determined using the CDC's National Vital Statistics Reports, "United States Life Tables," as used in Appendix I of our Court Rules. When a Graham claim is raised at a sentencing or PCR hearing, the court should use the most recent table available for a person of the defendant's age at the time of the hearing, without injecting disparities regarding race, sex, and ethnicity.