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    The Lawletter Blog

    CRIMINAL LAW: Juvenile Sentences—Retroactivity of Miller v. Alabama

    Posted by Gale Burns on Fri, Oct 24, 2014 @ 14:10 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 39 No 8

    Mark Rieber, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

        There is a split of authority in federal and state courts over whether the Supreme Court's ruling in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012), applies retroactively to cases on collateral review. In Miller, the Supreme Court held "that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders." Id. at 2469. The Court stated that the decision "require[s the sentence] to take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison." Id. Miller then provides substantial details regarding what must be considered as part of the individualized sentencing process before a sentence of life without parole can be imposed on a juvenile.

        Federal and state courts across the country "have considered whether Miller announced a new rule that should be applied retroactively, with varying outcomes." Malvo v. Mathena, No. 2:13-cv-375, 2014 WL 2808805, at *10 (E.D. Va. signed June 20, 2014); see also id. at *10-13 (collecting cases). "Indeed, there is no consensus among lower courts whether Miller is retroactively applied to cases on collateral review." Id. at *10.

        Recent cases have followed this trend and have reached different conclusions on the issue. In In re State, No. 2013-556, 2014 WL 4253359 (N.H. Aug. 29, 2014) (not yet released for publication), "[a]fter thoroughly reviewing the decision in Miller and the jurisprudence on both sides of the matter," id. at *4, the court agreed with the reasoning of those courts finding the Miller rule to be a "new, substantive rule which should be applied retroactively on collateral review," id. (collecting cases).

        By contrast, other recent cases have held that Miller does not apply retroactively. E.g., State v. Duncan, No. CR-13-0879, 2014 WL 4387707 (Ala. Crim. App. Sept. 5, 2014) (not yet released for publication) (reaffirming an earlier Alabama decision); People v. Carp, 496 Mich. 440, 852 N.W.2d 801 (2014); Malvo, M2014 WL 2808805.

    Topics: no consensus among courts, Miller v. Alabama, retroactivity of sentencing, juvenile sentences

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