Montgomery v. Louisiana, No. 14–280.

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation577 U.S. 190,136 S.Ct. 718,193 L.Ed.2d 599
Parties Henry MONTGOMERY, Petitioner v. LOUISIANA.
Docket NumberNo. 14–280.
Decision Date25 January 2016

577 U.S. 190
136 S.Ct.
718
193 L.Ed.2d 599

Henry MONTGOMERY, Petitioner
v.
LOUISIANA.

No. 14–280.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued Oct. 13, 2015.
Decided Jan. 25, 2016.

As Revised Jan. 27, 2016.


Richard D. Bernstein, appointed by this Court, as amicus curiae.

Michael R. Dreeben for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the Petitioner.

S. Kyle Duncan, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Mark D. Plaisance, Thibodaux, LA, for Petitioner.

Mark Plaisance, Lindsay Jarrell Blouin, Office of the Public Defender, Thibodaux, LA, Sean Collins, Baton Rouge, LA, Marsha Levick, Emily C. Keller, Jean W. Strout, Philadelphia, PA, Jeffrey J. Pokorak, Boston, MA, for Petitioner.

James D. "Buddy" Caldwell, Louisiana Attorney General, Trey Phillips, First Assistant, Attorney General, Colin A. Clark, Assistant Attorney General, Louisiana Department of Justice, Baton Rouge, LA, Hillar C. Moore, III, District Attorney, Dylan C. Alge, Assistant District Attorney, Baton Rouge, LA, S. Kyle Duncan, Duncan PLLC, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Justice KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.

577 U.S. 193

This is another case in a series of decisions involving the sentencing of offenders who were juveniles when their crimes were committed. In Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), the Court held that a juvenile convicted of a homicide offense could not be sentenced to life in prison without parole absent consideration of the juvenile's special circumstances in light of the principles and purposes of juvenile

577 U.S. 194

sentencing. In the wake of Miller , the question has arisen whether its holding is retroactive to juvenile offenders whose convictions and sentences were final when Miller was decided. Courts have reached different conclusions on this point. Compare, e.g., Martin v. Symmes, 782 F.3d 939, 943 (C.A.8 2015) ; Johnson v. Ponton, 780 F.3d 219, 224–226 (C.A.4 2015) ; Chambers v. State, 831 N.W.2d 311, 331 (Minn.2013) ; and State v. Tate, 2012–2763, p. 17 (La.11/5/13), 130 So.3d 829, 841, with Diatchenko v. District Attorney for Suffolk Dist., 466 Mass. 655, 661–667, 1 N.E.3d 270, 278–282 (2013) ; Aiken v. Byars, 410 S.C. 534, 548, 765 S.E.2d 572, 578 (2014) ; State v. Mares, 2014 WY 126, ¶¶ 47–63, 335 P.3d 487, 504–508 ; and People v. Davis, 2014 IL 115595, ¶ 41, 379 Ill.Dec. 381, 6 N.E.3d 709, 722. Certiorari was granted in this case to resolve the question.

I

Petitioner is Henry Montgomery. In 1963, Montgomery killed Charles Hurt, a deputy sheriff in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Montgomery was 17 years old at the time of the crime. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed his conviction after finding that public prejudice had prevented a fair trial. State v. Montgomery, 248 La. 713, 181 So.2d 756, 762 (1966).

Montgomery was retried. The jury returned a verdict of "guilty without capital punishment."

136 S.Ct. 726

State v. Montgomery, 257 La. 461, 242 So.2d 818 (1970). Under Louisiana law, this verdict required the trial court to impose a sentence of life without parole. The sentence was automatic upon the jury's verdict, so Montgomery had no opportunity to present mitigation evidence to justify a less severe sentence. That evidence might have included Montgomery's young age at the time of the crime; expert testimony regarding his limited capacity for foresight, self-discipline, and judgment; and his potential for rehabilitation. Montgomery, now 69 years old, has spent almost his entire life in prison.

577 U.S. 195

Almost 50 years after Montgomery was first taken into custody, this Court decided Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407. Miller held that mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on " ‘cruel and unusual punishments.’ " Id ., at ––––, 132 S.Ct., at 2460. "By making youth (and all that accompanies it) irrelevant to imposition of that harshest prison sentence," mandatory life without parole " poses too great a risk of disproportionate punishment." Id., at ––––, 132 S.Ct., at 2469. Miller required that sentencing courts consider a child's "diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change" before condemning him or her to die in prison. Ibid. Although Miller did not foreclose a sentencer's ability to impose life without parole on a juvenile, the Court explained that a lifetime in prison is a disproportionate sentence for all but the rarest of children, those whose crimes reflect " ‘irreparable corruption.’ " Ibid. (quoting Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 573, 125 S.Ct. 1183, 161 L.Ed.2d 1 (2005) ).

After this Court issued its decision in Miller , Montgomery sought collateral review of his mandatory life-without-parole sentence. In Louisiana there are two principal mechanisms for collateral challenge to the lawfulness of imprisonment. Each begins with a filing in the trial court where the prisoner was convicted and sentenced. La.Code Crim. Proc. Ann., Arts. 882, 926 (West 2008). The first procedure permits a prisoner to file an application for postconviction relief on one or more of seven grounds set forth in the statute. Art. 930.3. The Louisiana Supreme Court has held that none of those grounds provides a basis for collateral review of sentencing errors. See State ex rel. Melinie v. State, 93–1380 (La.1/12/96), 665 So.2d 1172 (per curiam ). Sentencing errors must instead be raised through Louisiana's second collateral review procedure.

This second mechanism allows a prisoner to bring a collateral attack on his or her sentence by filing a motion to correct an illegal sentence. See Art. 882. Montgomery invoked

577 U.S. 196

this procedure in the East Baton Rouge Parish District Court.

The state statute provides that "[a]n illegal sentence may be corrected at any time by the court that imposed the sentence." Ibid . An illegal sentence "is primarily restricted to those instances in which the term of the prisoner's sentence is not authorized by the statute or statutes which govern the penalty" for the crime of conviction. State v. Mead, 2014–1051, p. 3 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/22/15), 165 So.3d 1044, 1047 ; see also State v. Alexander, 2014–0401 (La.11/7/14), 152 So.3d 137 (per curiam ). In the ordinary course Louisiana courts will not consider a challenge to a disproportionate sentence on collateral review; rather, as a general matter, it appears that prisoners must raise Eighth Amendment sentencing challenges on direct review. See State v. Gibbs, 620 So.2d 296, 296–297 (La.App.1993) ; Mead, 165 So.3d, at 1047.

Louisiana's collateral review courts will, however, consider a motion to correct

136 S.Ct. 727

an illegal sentence based on a decision of this Court holding that the Eighth Amendment to the Federal Constitution prohibits a punishment for a type of crime or a class of offenders. When, for example, this Court held in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010), that the Eighth Amendment bars life-without-parole sentences for juvenile nonhomicide offenders, Louisiana courts heard Graham claims brought by prisoners whose sentences had long been final. See, e.g., State v. Shaffer, 2011–1756, pp. 1–4 (La.11/23/11), 77 So.3d 939, 940–942 (per curiam ) (considering motion to correct an illegal sentence on the ground that Graham rendered illegal a life-without-parole sentence for a juvenile nonhomicide offender). Montgomery's motion argued that Miller rendered his mandatory life-without-parole sentence illegal.

The trial court denied Montgomery's motion on the ground that Miller is not retroactive on collateral review. Montgomery then filed an application for a supervisory writ. The Louisiana Supreme Court denied the application. 2013–1163

577 U.S. 197

(6/20/14), 141 So.3d 264. The court relied on its earlier decision in State v. Tate, 2012–2763, 130 So.3d 829, which held that Miller does not have retroactive effect in cases on state collateral review. Chief Justice Johnson and Justice Hughes dissented in Tate , and Chief Justice Johnson again noted her dissent in Montgomery's case.

This Court granted Montgomery's petition for certiorari. The petition presented the question "whether Miller adopts a new substantive rule that applies retroactively on collateral review to people condemned as juveniles to die in prison." Pet. for Cert. i. In addition, the Court directed the parties to address the following question: "Do we have jurisdiction to decide whether the Supreme Court of Louisiana correctly refused to give retroactive effect in this case to our decision in Miller ?" 575 U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 1546, 191 L.Ed.2d 635 (2015).

II

The parties agree that the Court has jurisdiction to decide this case. To ensure this conclusion is correct, the Court appointed Richard D. Bernstein as amicus curiae to brief and argue the position that the Court lacks jurisdiction. He has ably...

To continue reading

Request your trial
451 practice notes
  • Young v. State, S21P0078
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • June 24, 2021
    ...more than necessary upon the States’ sovereign administration of their criminal justice systems.’ " (quoting Montgomery v. Louisiana , 577 U. S. 190, 211 (III), 136 S.Ct. 718, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 (2016) (citing Ford , 477 U. S. at 416-417 (V) (A), 106 S.Ct. 2595 (plurality portion of opinion)))......
  • People v. Montelongo, B294095
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 15, 2020
    ...are capable of change.’ " ( Id. at p. 380, 229 Cal.Rptr.3d 249, 411 P.3d 445 ; see Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016) 577 U.S. ––––, ––––,136 S.Ct. 718, 736, 193 L.Ed.2d 599.)As Montelongo points out, the changes in the legal and scientific landscape since the United States Supreme Court decide......
  • Edwards v. Vannoy, No. 19-5807
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 17, 2021
    ...plain text. Congress, through AEDPA, has made clear that federal courts cannot provide relief in this case. See Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U. S. 190, 221 Page 29(2016) (Scalia, J., dissenting); see also Ex parte Bollman, 4 Cranch 75, 94 (1807) (Marshall, C. J.) ("[T]he power to award the ......
  • State v. Lauderdale (In re Pers. Restraint of Lauderdale), No. 37141-7-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • December 24, 2020
    ...without the possibility of parole if the court finds the juvenile to be irretrievably depraved. Montgomery v. Louisiana, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 718, 733, 193 L. Ed. 2d 599 (2016). If the court remains free to assess the maturity of an offender under the age of 18, the court should possess......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
486 cases
  • Young v. State, S21P0078
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • June 24, 2021
    ...more than necessary upon the States’ sovereign administration of their criminal justice systems.’ " (quoting Montgomery v. Louisiana , 577 U. S. 190, 211 (III), 136 S.Ct. 718, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 (2016) (citing Ford , 477 U. S. at 416-417 (V) (A), 106 S.Ct. 2595 (plurality portion of opinion)))......
  • People v. Montelongo, B294095
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 15, 2020
    ...are capable of change.’ " ( Id. at p. 380, 229 Cal.Rptr.3d 249, 411 P.3d 445 ; see Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016) 577 U.S. ––––, ––––,136 S.Ct. 718, 736, 193 L.Ed.2d 599.)As Montelongo points out, the changes in the legal and scientific landscape since the United States Supreme Court decide......
  • Edwards v. Vannoy, No. 19-5807
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 17, 2021
    ...plain text. Congress, through AEDPA, has made clear that federal courts cannot provide relief in this case. See Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U. S. 190, 221 Page 29(2016) (Scalia, J., dissenting); see also Ex parte Bollman, 4 Cranch 75, 94 (1807) (Marshall, C. J.) ("[T]he power to award the ......
  • State v. Lauderdale (In re Pers. Restraint of Lauderdale), No. 37141-7-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • December 24, 2020
    ...without the possibility of parole if the court finds the juvenile to be irretrievably depraved. Montgomery v. Louisiana, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 718, 733, 193 L. Ed. 2d 599 (2016). If the court remains free to assess the maturity of an offender under the age of 18, the court should possess......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 books & journal articles
  • Youth Always Matters: Replacing Eighth Amendment Pseudoscience with an Age-Based Ban on Juvenile Life Without Parole.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 6, April 2022
    • April 1, 2022
    ...See Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 465 (2012) (abolishing mandatory sentences of juvenile life without parole); Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. 190, 212 (2016) (holding that Miller's prohibition announced a new substantive rule that must be retroactive on collateral review); Jones v. Mi......
  • CRIMINAL LAW: CAPITAL FELONY MERGER.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 111 Nbr. 3, June 2021
    • June 22, 2021
    ...the Court has expanded the category of "different" cases to include juvenile life without parole sentences. See Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. 190 (2016) (applying the Court's decision in Miller retroactively and reaffirming the principle that juveniles are different); Miller v. Alabama,......
  • Finality, Comity, and Retroactivity in Criminal Procedure: Reimagining the Teague Doctrine After Edwards v. Vannoy.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 73 Nbr. 6, June 2021
    • June 1, 2021
    ...collateral proceedings to grant retroactive effect to new constitutional rules that fall under the Teague substantive-rule exception. 136 S. Ct. 718,729 (2016) ("[W]hen a new substantive rule of constitutional law controls the outcome of a case, the Constitution requires state collateral re......
  • Children Sentenced to Die in Prison: Why a Lifetime Behind Bars is No Longer Justified for Juvenile Offenders.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 87 Nbr. 2, March 2022
    • March 22, 2022
    ...United States v. Sparks, 941 F.3d 748 (5th Cir. 2019)). (53) Jones, 141 S. Ct. at 1313; see Miller, 567 U.S. 460; Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. 190 (54) Jones, 141 S. Ct. at 1314-15. (55) Id. at 1315 (citing Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002) (lack of intellectual disability as a c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT