Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016)

Montgomery v. Louisiana Opinion

On January 25th, 2016, the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that its 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama applied retroactively to the more than 2600 individuals previously sentenced to life without parole as children.

Henry Montgomery, the petitioner in the case, was sentenced to life without parole for a crime committed when he was 17 years old in 1963, almost 50 years before the decision in Miller. Louisiana courts declined to apply Miller retroactively to cases like Mr. Montgomery’s.

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, overturned the state court’s decision and found that, under a prior Supreme Court decision, Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989), Miller announced a new substantive rule that applies retroactively. Justice Kennedy explained: “because Miller determined that sentencing a child to life without parole is excessive for all but ‘the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption,’ it rendered life without parole an unconstitutional penalty for ‘a class of defendants because of their status’—that is, juvenile offenders whose crimes reflect the transient immaturity of youth. As a result, Miller announced a substantive rule of constitutional law.” 136 S.Ct. 718, 724 (2016) Therefore, “Miller is retroactive because it ‘necessarily carr[ies] a significant risk that a defendant’—here, the vast majority of juvenile offenders— ‘faces a punishment that the law cannot impose upon him.’” Id.

Montgomery v. Louisiana

 

Cert Petition and Opposition Filed in Montgomery v. Louisiana

Petition for Writ of Certiorari on Behalf of Henry Montgomery

Brief in Opposition to Petition for Writ of Certiorari on Behalf of Louisiana

Reply Brief in Support of Petition for Writ of Certiorari on Behalf of Henry Montgomery

 

Party Briefs Filed in Montgomery v. Louisiana

Brief Filed on Behalf of Henry Montgomery (Petitioner’s Brief)

Brief Filed on Behalf of Louisiana (Respondent’s Brief)

Reply Brief Filed on Behalf of Henry Montgomery (Petitioner’s Reply Brief)

 

Montgomery v. Louisiana Oral Argument

Oral Argument Transcript

Oral Argument Audio Recording

 

Amicus

BRIEF OF AMICUS CURIAE PROFESSOR DOUGLAS A. BERMAN IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER

BRIEF OF NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW’S CHILDREN AND FAMILY JUSTICE CENTER and CENTER ON WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS OF YOUTH, ET AL. AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER

BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE Pascal F. Calogero, Jr., Burk Foster, John Whitley, and The Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER

BRIEF OF AMICUS CURIAE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER

BRIEF FOR THE UNITED STATES AS AMICUS CURIAE SUPPORTING PETITIONER

BRIEF OF THE EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE ON BEHALF OF DOZENS SENTENCED TO DIE IN PRISON WHEN THEY WERE CHILDREN AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER

BRIEF OF FORMER JUVENILE COURT JUDGES AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER 

BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE OF CERTAIN FAMILY MEMBERS OF VICTIMS KILLED BY YOUTHS IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER

BRIEF AMICUS CURIAE OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION AND THE ACLU OF LOUISIANA, IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER

 

Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs (2012)

On June 25, 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that it is unconstitutional to impose a life-without-parole sentence on someone who was under the age of 18 at the time of the crime without first considering “how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.” Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 480 (2012). In so ruling, the Court struck down all statutes that require a child to be sentenced to die in prison. The ruling granted new sentencing hearings for Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller, petitioners in the two cases before the Court, both of whom were automatically sentenced to life in prison without parole for crimes they committed at the age of 14.*

The Court held that imposing life-without-parole sentences on children without consideration of their youth “contravenes Graham’s (and also Roper’s) foundational principle: that imposition of a State’s most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children.”  Miller, 567 U.S. at 474. Therefore, regardless of the crime committed, child status matters.

Justice Kagan, writing for the majority, said that sentencing must include consideration of a child’s chronological age and its hallmark features, such as immaturity, impetuosity and failure to appreciate risks and consequences. Id. at 477. It also should take into account the family and home environment — from which the youth cannot usually extricate himself, even if it is brutal or dysfunctional, as well as the youth’s role in the crime and potential to become rehabilitated. Id.

The Court also was clear that life without parole sentences for children should be rare. Justice Kagan wrote, “Given all we have said in Roper, Graham, and this decision about children’s diminished culpability, and heightened capacity for change, we think appropriate occasions for sentencing juveniles to this harshest possible penalty will be uncommon.” Id. at 479. Further the sentence is appropriate only for “the juvenile offender whose crime reflects unfortunate yet transient immaturity, and the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption.” Id. at 479-480. The ruling affects more than 2600 individuals whose age and other mitigating factors were not taken into account at sentencing.

*Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs are companion cases that were argued separately but that shared one Supreme Court opinion.

Learn More:

Miller v. Alabama Opinion

Quotes Compiled by the CFSY from Miller v. Alabama Opinion

Miller v. Alabama Oral Arguments Audio

Jackson v. Hobbs Oral Arguments Audio

Media coverage

Photographs from the Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama Supreme Court Oral Arguments

BRIEF OF FORMER JUVENILE COURT JUDGES AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

Brief for Professor of Law and his Students from the Moritz College of Law in Support of Petitioners

BRIEF OF JUVENILE LAW CENTER ET AL AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

BRIEF OF THE NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND ET AL AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE J LAWRENCE ABER ET AL IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

BRIEF OF JEFFREY FAGAN ET AL AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

BRIEF FOR THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION, AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION, AND NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida (2010)

On May 17, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that it is unconstitutional to sentence someone to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a non-homicide crime committed under the age of 18. The Court found the sentence to be a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment if a youth “did not kill or intend to kill.” Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 69 (2010).

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said, “To justify life without parole on the assumption that the juvenile offender forever will be a danger to society requires the sentencer to make a judgment that the juvenile is incorrigible. The characteristics of juveniles make that judgment questionable.” Graham, 560 U.S. at 73-74.

The ruling entitled Terrance Graham, the petitioner in the case, and more than one hundred others sentenced to die in prison for non-homicide crimes committed as children, to be resentenced and required them to receive a “meaningful opportunity for release.” Id. at 75. This was the first ruling outside of the death penalty context, where the Court held that age—child status—is relevant to the Eighth Amendment analysis of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

According to the majority, “An offender’s age is relevant to the Eighth amendment, and criminal procedure laws that fail to take defendants’ youthfulness into account would all be flawed.” Id. at 73-74.

As in Roper, the Court cited international practices in its consideration of basic principles of decency and noted that the United States stands alone in the world in imposing this extreme sentence. Id. at 80-82. Like the death penalty for children, the Court noted that the life-without-parole sentences imposed on youth violate international human rights laws.

Learn More:

Graham v. Florida Opinion

Fact Sheet Developed by the CFSY

Quotes Compiled by the CFSY from the Graham v. Florida Opinion

BRIEF OF JUVENILE LAW CENTER, NATIONAL JUVENILE DEFENDER CENTER, CHILDREN AND FAMILY JUSTICE CENTER, ET AL. AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE OF THE MOTHERS AGAINST MURDERERS ASSOCIATION, ROBERT HOELSCHER, RUTH JOHNSON, AZIM KHAMISA, BILL PELKE, AQEELA SHERRILLS, TAMMI SMITH, AND LINDA WHITE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

BRIEF OF THE SENTENCING PROJECT AS AMICUS CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

BRIEF OF THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION AS AMICUS CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

BRIEF FOR THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION, AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS, AND MENTAL HEALTH AMERICA AS AMICI CURIAE SUPPORTING PETITIONERS 

BRIEF FOR AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, ET AL., AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

BRIEF OF COUNCIL OF JUVENILE CORRECTIONAL ADMINISTRATORS, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR JUVENILE CORRECTIONAL AGENCIES, NATIONAL JUVENILE DETENTION ASSOCIATION, NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP FOR JUVENILE SERVICES, AMERICAN PROBATION AND PAROLE ASSOCIATION, AND INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS ASSOCIATION AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

BRIEF OF FORMER JUVENILE OFFENDERS CHARLES S. DUTTON, FORMER SEN. ALAN K. SIMPSON, R. DWAYNE BETTS, LUIS RODRIGUEZ, TERRY K. RAY, T.J. PARSELL, AND ISHMAEL BEAH AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE J. LAWRENCE ABER, MARC S. ATKINS, CAMILLA P. BENBOW, MARY M. BRABECK, JEROME BRUNER, HARDIN L.K. COLEMAN, JANE C. CONOLEY, KENNETH A. DODGE, MICHELLE FINE, DOUGLAS FUCHS, LYNN S. FUCHS, FRANCES M. JENSEN, BRINTON LYKES, JACQUELINE MATTIS, PEDRO NOGUERA, ISAAC PRILLELTENSKY & NIOBE WAY IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS

Roper v. Simmons (2005)

In the landmark decision in Roper v. Simmons, issued on March 1, 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that it is unconstitutional to impose the death penalty for a crime committed by a child under the age of 18. The Court ruled that a death sentence imposed on a minor violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

In his opinion for the majority, Justice Kennedy wrote, “When a juvenile offender commits a heinous crime, the state can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties, but the state cannot extinguish his life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity.” Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 554 (2005).

The Court cited adolescent development research finding that children’s brains—not just their bodies—are not fully developed, and as a result, they do not have adult levels of judgment or ability to assess risks and the consequences of their actions. The Court noted that children are more susceptible to peer pressure than adults and have little power to escape harmful environments. Because of where they are developmentally, children also have greater potential for rehabilitation.  The Court concluded that children are categorically less culpable than adults. Roper, 543 U.S. at 568.

Justice Kennedy wrote, “From a moral standpoint, it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor’s character deficiencies will be reformed.” Id. at 570.

In addition, the Court discussed the infrequency with which states were imposing the death penalty on children and looked at the practices in other countries and that the United States stood alone in allowing the execution of children. Id. at 532-533. Significantly, the Court also noted that the imposition of the death penalty on a child violated international human rights laws, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Id. at 576.

Learn more:

Roper v. Simmons Opinion

Roper v. Simmons Oral arguments Transcript

BRIEF FOR THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION, AND THE MISSOURI PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION AS AMICI CURIAE SUPPORTING RESPONDENT

Brief of Juvenile Law Center, Children and Family Justice Center, Center on Children and Families, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund, Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles, National Association of Counsel for Children, and 45 other organizations, as AMICI CURIAE In Support of Respondent