That afternoon, Bruner was sexually assaulted in the home by someone whose face she never saw.
The older boys implicated Sullivan, and he was convicted. Sullivan was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole. Simmons, a landmark ruling that held that states could no longer execute offenders who had committed their crimes before the age of eighteen.
Joe is one of only two children this age who have ever been sentenced to life without parole for a non-homicide, and no child has received this sentence for non-homicide in the last eighteen years.” The Justices dismissed Sullivan’s case on procedural grounds, but in a companion case, argued earlier that day, they had embraced Stevenson’s argument: juveniles in non-homicides could not be sentenced to life.
The state imposes death sentences at the highest rate in the nation, but the Equal Justice Initiative has limited the number of executions to twenty-two in the past decade, and there has been only one in the past three years.
“It’s just intensive case-by-case litigation,” Stevenson told me.
Over the decades, it has handled hundreds of capital cases, and has spared a hundred and twenty-five offenders from execution.
In recent years, Stevenson has also argued the appeals of prisoners around the country who were convicted of various crimes as juveniles and given long sentences or life in prison.
The nineteen appellate judges who review death sentences, including all the justices on the state Supreme Court, are white and Republican.