Miller v. Alabama, Nos. 10–9646

CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice KAGAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation132 S.Ct. 2455,567 U.S. 460,183 L.Ed.2d 407
Docket Number10–9647.,Nos. 10–9646
Decision Date25 June 2012
Parties Evan MILLER, Petitioner v. ALABAMA. Kuntrell Jackson, Petitioner v. Ray Hobbs, Director, Arkansas Department of Correction.

567 U.S. 460
132 S.Ct.
2455
183 L.Ed.2d 407

Evan MILLER, Petitioner
v.
ALABAMA.


Kuntrell Jackson, Petitioner
v.
Ray Hobbs, Director, Arkansas Department of Correction.

Nos. 10–9646
10–9647.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued March 20, 2012.
Decided June 25, 2012.


Bryan A. Stevenson, Montgomery, AL, for Petitioner.

John C. Neiman, Jr., Solicitor General, for Respondent.

Bryan A. Stevenson, Counsel of Record, Randall S. Susskind, Alicia A. D'Addario, Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, AL, for Petitioner.

John Porter, Clay Crenshaw, Henry Johnson, Stephanie Reiland, Jess R. Nix, Assistant Attorneys General, Luther Strange, Attorney General, John C. Neiman, Jr., Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Prim F. Escalona, Andrew L. Brasher, Deputy Solicitors General, Office of the Alabama Attorney General, Montgomery, AL, for Respondent.

Justice KAGAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

567 U.S. 465

The two 14–year–old offenders in these cases were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In neither case did the sentencing authority have any discretion to impose a different punishment. State law mandated that each juvenile die in prison even if a judge or jury would have thought that his youth and its attendant characteristics, along with the nature of his crime, made a lesser sentence (for example, life with the possibility of parole) more appropriate. Such a scheme prevents those meting out punishment from considering a juvenile's "lessened culpability" and greater "capacity for change," Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 68, 74, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 2026–2027, 2029–2030, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010), and runs afoul of our cases' requirement of individualized sentencing for defendants facing the most serious penalties. We therefore hold that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishments."

132 S.Ct. 2461

I

A

In November 1999, petitioner Kuntrell Jackson, then 14 years old, and two other boys decided to rob a video store. En route to the store, Jackson learned that one of the boys, Derrick Shields, was carrying a sawed-off shotgun in his coat sleeve. Jackson decided to stay outside when the two other boys entered the store. Inside, Shields pointed the gun at the store clerk, Laurie Troup, and demanded that she "give up the money." Jackson v. State, 359 Ark. 87, 89, 194 S.W.3d 757, 759 (2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). Troup refused. A few moments later, Jackson went into the store to find Shields continuing to demand money. At trial, the parties disputed whether Jackson warned Troup that "[w]e ain't playin'," or instead told his friends, "I thought you all was playin'." Id., at 91, 194 S.W.3d, at 760 (internal

567 U.S. 466

quotation marks omitted). When Troup threatened to call the police, Shields shot and killed her. The three boys fled empty-handed. See id., at 89–92, 194 S.W.3d, at 758–760.

Arkansas law gives prosecutors discretion to charge 14–year–olds as adults when they are alleged to have committed certain serious offenses. See Ark.Code Ann. § 9–27–318(c)(2) (1998). The prosecutor here exercised that authority by charging Jackson with capital felony murder and aggravated robbery. Jackson moved to transfer the case to juvenile court, but after considering the alleged facts of the crime, a psychiatrist's examination, and Jackson's juvenile arrest history (shoplifting and several incidents of car theft), the trial court denied the motion, and an appellate court affirmed. See Jackson v. State, No. 02–535, 2003 WL 193412, *1 (Ark.App., Jan. 29, 2003) ; §§ 9–27–318(d), (e). A jury later convicted Jackson of both crimes. Noting that "in view of [the] verdict, there's only one possible punishment," the judge sentenced Jackson to life without parole. App. in No. 10–9647, p. 55 (hereinafter Jackson App.); see Ark.Code Ann. § 5–4–104(b) (1997) ("A defendant convicted of capital murder or treason shall be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without parole").1 Jackson did not challenge the sentence on appeal, and the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the convictions. See 359 Ark. 87, 194 S.W.3d 757.

Following Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183, 161 L.Ed.2d 1 (2005), in which this Court invalidated the death penalty for all juvenile offenders under the age of 18, Jackson filed a state petition for habeas corpus. He argued, based on Roper 's reasoning, that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a 14–year–old also violates the Eighth Amendment. The circuit court rejected that argument and granted the State's motion to dismiss. See Jackson App. 72–76. While that ruling was on appeal, this Court held in Graham v. Florida

567 U.S. 467

that life without parole violates the Eighth Amendment when imposed on juvenile nonhomicide offenders. After the parties filed briefs addressing that decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Jackson's petition. See Jackson v. Norris, 2011 Ark. 49, 378 S.W.3d 103. The majority found that Roper and Graham were "narrowly tailored" to their contexts: "death-penalty cases involving a juvenile and life-imprisonment-without-parole cases for nonhomicide offenses involving a juvenile." Id., at 5, 378 S.W.3d, at 106. Two justices dissented. They noted that Jackson

132 S.Ct. 2462

was not the shooter and that "any evidence of intent to kill was severely lacking." Id., at 10, 378 S.W.3d, at 109 (Danielson, J., dissenting). And they argued that Jackson's mandatory sentence ran afoul of Graham 's admonition that " '[a]n offender's age is relevant to the Eighth Amendment, and criminal procedure laws that fail to take defendants' youthfulness into account at all would be flawed.' " Id., at 10–11, 378 S.W.3d, at 109 (quoting Graham, 560 U.S., at 76, 130 S.Ct., at 2031).2

B

Like Jackson, petitioner Evan Miller was 14 years old at the time of his crime. Miller had by then been in and out of foster care because his mother suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction and his stepfather abused him. Miller, too, regularly used drugs and alcohol; and he had attempted suicide four times, the first when he was six years old. See

567 U.S. 468

E.J.M. v. State, 928 So.2d 1077, 1081 (Ala.Crim.App.2004) (Cobb, J., concurring in result); App. in No. 10–9646, pp. 26–28 (hereinafter Miller App.).

One night in 2003, Miller was at home with a friend, Colby Smith, when a neighbor, Cole Cannon, came to make a drug deal with Miller's mother. See 6 Record in No. 10–9646, p. 1004. The two boys followed Cannon back to his trailer, where all three smoked marijuana and played drinking games. When Cannon passed out, Miller stole his wallet, splitting about $300 with Smith. Miller then tried to put the wallet back in Cannon's pocket, but Cannon awoke and grabbed Miller by the throat. Smith hit Cannon with a nearby baseball bat, and once released, Miller grabbed the bat and repeatedly struck Cannon with it. Miller placed a sheet over Cannon's head, told him " 'I am God, I've come to take your life,' " and delivered one more blow. 63 So.3d 676, 689 (Ala.Crim.App.2010). The boys then retreated to Miller's trailer, but soon decided to return to Cannon's to cover up evidence of their crime. Once there, they lit two fires. Cannon eventually died from his injuries and smoke inhalation. See id., at 683–685, 689.

Alabama law required that Miller initially be charged as a juvenile, but allowed the District Attorney to seek removal of the case to adult court. See Ala.Code § 12–15–34 (1977). The D.A. did so, and the juvenile court agreed to the transfer after a hearing. Citing the nature of the crime, Miller's "mental maturity," and his prior juvenile offenses (truancy and "criminal mischief"), the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. E.J.M. v. State, No. CR–03–0915, pp. 5–7 (Aug. 27, 2004) (unpublished memorandum).3 The State

567 U.S. 469

accordingly

132 S.Ct. 2463

charged Miller as an adult with murder in the course of arson. That crime (like capital murder in Arkansas) carries a mandatory minimum punishment of life without parole. See Ala.Code §§ 13A–5–40(a)(9), 13A–6–2(c) (1982).

Relying in significant part on testimony from Smith, who had pleaded to a lesser offense, a jury found Miller guilty. He was therefore sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, ruling that life without parole was "not overly harsh when compared to the crime" and that the mandatory nature of the sentencing scheme was permissible under the Eighth Amendment. 63 So.3d, at 690 ; see id., at 686–691. The Alabama Supreme Court denied review.

We granted certiorari in both cases, see 565 U.S. 1013, 132 S.Ct. 548, 181 L.Ed.2d 395 (2011) ( No. 10–9646); 565 U.S. 1013, 132 S.Ct. 548, 181 L.Ed.2d 395 (2011) (No. 10–9647), and now reverse.

II

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3430 practice notes
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    ...expanded to prohibit homicide juvenile offenders from being subject to a mandatory sentence of life without parole in Miller v. Alabama , 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2464, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012). Most recently, the Supreme Court ruled in Montgomery v. Louisiana , ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. ......
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    • California Court of Appeals
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    ...[must] be duly considered" in assessing his culpability.’ " ( Moore , at p. 453, 283 Cal.Rptr.3d 584, quoting Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. 460, 476, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407.)3. Substantial evidence does not support the superior court's finding Ramirez acted with reckless indiff......
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3407 cases
  • Stewart v. MaCauley, Case No. 1:20-cv-68
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • April 7, 2020
    ...15 Report (PSIR). Second, he asserts that the trial court failed to consider the Eighth Amendment implications of Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), when imposing his sentence. Third, he contends that he is entitled to resentencing because his sentence violated the principal of proport......
  • Oom v. Christiansen, 1:22-cv-83
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Michigan
    • March 21, 2022
    ...of life imprisonment without possibility of parole for a juvenile offender-which is like “the death penalty itself.” Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 470 (2012). --------- ...
  • Willbanks v. Mo. Dep't of Corr., No. SC 95395
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 11, 2017
    ...expanded to prohibit homicide juvenile offenders from being subject to a mandatory sentence of life without parole in Miller v. Alabama , 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2464, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012). Most recently, the Supreme Court ruled in Montgomery v. Louisiana , ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. ......
  • People v. Ramirez, B306088
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 23, 2021
    ...[must] be duly considered" in assessing his culpability.’ " ( Moore , at p. 453, 283 Cal.Rptr.3d 584, quoting Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. 460, 476, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407.)3. Substantial evidence does not support the superior court's finding Ramirez acted with reckless indiff......
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3 firm's commentaries
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15 books & journal articles
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  • Cruel and Unusual Non-Capital Punishments
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    • American Criminal Law Review Nbr. 58-4, October 2021
    • October 1, 2021
    ...for felony murder on accomplices who did not possess intent to kill was not inherently unconstitutional). 33. Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 465 (2012) (homicide); Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 82 (2010) (nonhomicide). 34. See Barkow, supra note 1, at 1146–49 (acknowledging the Court’s ......
  • 'HEY STEPHEN'.
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    • Michigan Law Review Vol. 120 Nbr. 6, April 2022
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    ...New Evidence from the Federal Tax on Private Real Estate in the 1790s, 130 YALEL. J. 1288 (2021). (9.) 141 S. Ct. 1307 (2021). (10.) 567 U.S. 460 (2012). (11.) 577 U.S. 190 (2016). (12.) Jones, 141 S. Ct. at 1314-15. (13.) Id. at 1322. (14.) See id. at 1328-41 (Sotomayor, J., dissenting). I......
  • Changing Against the Times: Against an Originalist Cruel and Unusual Jurisprudence
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    • The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy Nbr. 18-2, July 2020
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    ...15. See Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 321 (2002). 16. See Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 789–93 (1982). 17. See Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 489 (2012) (holding mandatory LWOP sentences for juveniles convicted of homicide unconstitutional); Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S 48, 82 (2010)......
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