State v. Seam, 373 N.C. 529 (Feb. 28, 2020)

The court per curiam affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, which had held that his sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole for his conviction of felony murder when he was 16 years old was not grossly disproportionate to his crime under the both the Eighth Amendment and the state constitution.  The Court of Appeals also had rejected the defendant’s argument that because G.S. 15A-1340.19B (the post-Miller first-degree murder sentencing scheme for juveniles) did not exist at the time he committed his crime, his sentence under that statute violated the prohibition against ex post facto laws.

The Supreme Court further concluded that the defendant’s Eighth Amendment arguments asserting that he has no meaningful opportunity for parole were not ripe for determination because the time at which he is eligible to apply for parole has not yet arrived.  The court “recognize[d] that the potential for parole constitutionally cannot be illusory for offenders sentenced to life with the possibility of parole and noted that the defendant was not precluded from raising such claims at a later date, in the event they become ripe for resolution.  A summary of the Court of Appeals opinion is available in the compendium here.