State v. Nathan

Citation522 S.W.3d 881
Decision Date11 July 2017
Docket NumberNo. SC 95473,SC 95473
Parties STATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Ledale NATHAN, Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri

522 S.W.3d 881

STATE of Missouri, Respondent,
v.
Ledale NATHAN, Appellant.

No. SC 95473

Supreme Court of Missouri, en banc.

Opinion issued July 11, 2017


Nathan was represented by William J. Swift of the public defender's office in Columbia, (573) 777-9977.

The state was represented by Evan J. Buchheim of the attorney general's office in Jefferson City, (573) 751-3321.

Zel M. Fischer, Chief Justice

Ledale Nathan, convicted of crimes he committed as a juvenile, appeals the sentences imposed by the circuit court. Nathan argues the State committed a Brady1 violation that warrants resentencing. He does not argue any punishment or sentence he received violates the constitution but argues the combined effect of his consecutive sentences, which include a homicide offense and several nonhomicide offenses, amount to the functional equivalent of life in prison without the possibility of parole and thereby violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, U.S. Const. amend. VIII ; Mo. Const. art. I, § 21, and his constitutional right to due process, U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1 ; Mo. Const. art. I, § 10.2 The dissenting opinion would hold a juvenile can never be sentenced to consecutive, lengthy sentences that exceed his life expectancy no matter how many violent crimes he commits. This suggestion ignores the undeniable truth that this Court's responsibility is "discere lex , non dare lex —to declare what the law is, not to make it or decide what it ought to be." State ex rel. Maggard v. Pond , 93 Mo. 606, 6 S.W. 469, 478 (Mo. 1887). This suggestion

522 S.W.3d 883

also ignores the fact that neither this Court's nor the Supreme Court of the United States' Eighth Amendment jurisprudence has ever addressed the cumulative effect based on constitutionally imposed consecutive sentences because it stands to reason a defendant subjects himself to multiple punishments when he has committed multiple offenses. The circuit court's judgment is affirmed.

Factual and Procedural History

In connection with a home-invasion robbery and murder, the State charged Nathan, 16 years old at the time of the crimes, with 26 counts: 1 count of first-degree murder, 2 counts of first-degree assault, 4 counts of first-degree robbery, 1 count of first-degree burglary, 5 counts of kidnapping, and 13 related counts of armed criminal action.3

Original Trial

After a jury found Nathan guilty in his original trial on all 26 counts, he waived jury sentencing. Pursuant to § 565.020.2,4 the circuit court then sentenced Nathan to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder conviction. In addition, the circuit court sentenced him to five life sentences and five 15-year sentences for the nonhomicide convictions, all of which were to be served consecutively to each other and to the sentence for first-degree murder, and eleven life sentences for the armed criminal action convictions, all of which were to be served concurrently with the other sentences and to each other. The circuit court dismissed the remaining four counts on which the jury had found Nathan guilty, concluding it had no jurisdiction over those charges. The four counts dismissed included one count of first-degree robbery, one count of kidnapping, and two related counts of armed criminal action.

Original Appeal

While Nathan's appeal was pending, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision in Miller v. Alabama , 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2469, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), holding that "the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders." As this Court explained, Miller held "life without parole may not be imposed [for a juvenile offender] unless the sentencer is given an opportunity to consider the individual facts and circumstances that might make such a sentence unjust or disproportionate." Nathan I , 404 S.W.3d at 270 (footnote omitted).5 This Court unanimously held the circuit court erred in dismissing the four counts for lack of jurisdiction and remanded for resentencing on those convictions as well as for resentencing on Nathan's first-degree murder conviction because the original sentence "was imposed with no individualized consideration of the myriad of factors discussed in Miller ." Id. at 260, 270. A majority of this Court further held that Nathan would be

522 S.W.3d 884

entitled to reassert his right to jury-recommended sentencing on remand for the sentences he appealed. Id. at 270 n.10.

Retrial of Sentencing

On remand, Nathan invoked his right to jury sentencing on the sentences he originally appealed, and both the State and Nathan presented evidence for the jury to consider. Because the jury did not unanimously agree to impose life in prison without the possibility of parole solely for the first-degree murder conviction, the circuit court vacated the guilty verdict on that charge and entered a finding of guilt for second-degree murder, in accordance with the procedure outlined by this Court in Nathan I . See id. at 270–71. As directed by this Court, the circuit court also vacated the armed criminal action conviction in connection with first-degree murder and entered a finding of guilt on armed criminal action in connection with second-degree murder. See id. at 271 n.11. The jury then recommended a life sentence for the second-degree murder conviction, a 30-year sentence for the first-degree robbery conviction, a 15-year sentence for kidnapping, and three life sentences for the related armed criminal action convictions.

Following the jury's recommendations, Nathan filed a motion requesting resentencing by a jury on the 20 convictions that were not part of the remand, claiming resentencing was warranted by a Brady violation.6 Specifically, Nathan alleged the State failed to disclose, prior to his original waiver of jury sentencing, a police report detailing an investigation into alleged sexual abuse committed against him. He also filed a motion for a new trial or, alternatively, resentencing in which he again made the same Brady claim and further argued the consecutive sentences on the nonhomicide convictions were the equivalent of life in prison without the possibility of parole and thus unconstitutional. The circuit court rejected these arguments, imposed the jury-recommended sentences, and ordered that the sentences run consecutively to each other and the previously imposed sentences, except for the armed criminal action sentences, which were ordered to run concurrently with their respective related charge. Nathan appealed, and after opinion by the court of appeals, this Court transferred the case pursuant to article V, § 10 of the Missouri Constitution.

Brady Claim

Nathan argues the circuit court erred in overruling his motion for a new sentencing hearing because the State failed to disclose a police report that documented his previously suffered sexual abuse. Such a failure to disclose the police report, Nathan argues, caused his waiver of jury sentencing at his original trial to be made unknowingly, unintelligently, and involuntarily.

The Supreme Court in Brady held "suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." 373 U.S. at 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194. " Brady , however, only applies in situations where the defense discovers information after trial that had been known to the prosecution at trial." State v. Holden , 278 S.W.3d 674, 679 (Mo. banc 2009). "If the defendant had knowledge of the evidence at the time of trial,

522 S.W.3d 885

the state cannot be faulted for non-disclosure." Id. at 679–80.

Here, Brady is inapplicable because Nathan disclosed the alleged sexual abuse to a caseworker pursuant to a "hotline" investigation before trial and that communication was later placed into the police report and other records from the Missouri Department of Social Services—Children's Division. Clearly then, Nathan had knowledge of the contents of the police report. See id. Therefore, the State did not commit a Brady violation, and the circuit court did not err in overruling Nathan's motion.

Graham Claim

Nathan argues the circuit court's imposition of consecutive sentences on the homicide conviction along with the several nonhomicide convictions are the functional equivalent of life without possibility of parole and, thereby, violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and his constitutional right to due process under Graham v. Florida , 560 U.S. 48, 82, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010). When a criminal defendant alleges his or her constitutional rights have been violated, this Court's review is de novo. State v. Sisco , 458 S.W.3d 304, 312–13 (Mo. banc 2015).

The Supreme Court in Graham held, "The Constitution prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide." In the scenario where,...

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  • State v. Wood
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 16, 2019
    ...and article I, § 21 of the Missouri Constitution provide the same protection against cruel and unusual punishment. State v. Nathan , 522 S.W.3d 881, 882 n.2 (Mo. banc 2017) ; State v. Lee , 841 S.W.2d 648, 654-55 (Mo. banc 1992). Wood asserts § 565.030.4 is unconstitutional because Missouri......
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    ...upheld de facto LWOP sentences under Graham or under Miller for juvenile defendants capable of rehabilitation.16 See State v. Nathan , 522 S.W.3d 881 (Mo. 2017) ; State v. Ali , 895 N.W.2d 237 (Minn. 2017), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S.Ct. 640, 199 L.Ed.2d 543 (2018) ; Lucero v. Peop......
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    • August 30, 2017
    ...States Supreme Court on July 28, 2017.17 The Supreme Court of Missouri also decided a second, related case that day: State v. Nathan, 522 S.W.3d 881, 2017 WL 2952773 (Mo. 2017). The defendant was convicted of second degree murder and multiple nonhomicide crimes arising from a home invasion ......
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