Mr. Romero received a sentence of life plus 25 years, with a 40 year period of parole ineligibility for crimes he committed as a juvenile. After the New Jersey Supreme Court determined that children who received sentences that were the practical equivalent of life without parole should be resentenced, the trial court reduced the period of parole ineligibility by two years.
The State argued that he was not entitled to a resentencing to begin with because his sentence was not the functional equivalent of life without parole. Mr. Romero’s attorney submitted parole data showing a high percentage of people are not being released at their first parole eligibility date.
The ACLU-NJ’s amicus brief argued that parole data is probative of when and whether the possibility of parole will cure an otherwise unconstitutional juvenile sentence. That is, when does the possibility of parole provide “some meaningful opportunity to obtain release” as the Eighth Amendment requires? The brief also explains that parole data is relevant to determining whether a juvenile sentence requires an opportunity to show the impact of youth on behavior. Such a requirement only attaches to a certain category of very long sentences. Accordingly, parole data showing how much “real time” a juvenile is actually facing, regardless of when he becomes eligible for parole, must necessarily be considered in determining whether the procedural and substantive protections of the juvenile sentencing cases apply.