Williams v. State, CR–12–1862.

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Writing for the CourtJOINER, Judge.
Citation183 So.3d 198
Parties Jimmy WILLIAMS, Jr. v. STATE of Alabama.
Decision Date04 April 2014
Docket NumberCR–12–1862.

183 So.3d 198

Jimmy WILLIAMS, Jr.
v.
STATE of Alabama.

CR–12–1862.

Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.

April 4, 2014.
Rehearing Denied July 11, 2014.


183 So.3d 200

Charlotte Morrison and Bethany J. Young, Montgomery, for appellant.

Luther Strange, atty. gen., and Lauren A. Simpson, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

JOINER, Judge.

Jimmy Williams, Jr., who was convicted in the Montgomery Circuit Court of capital murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, filed a petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Rule 32, Ala. R.Crim. P., challenging his sentence; specifically, Williams—who was 15 years old at the time of his offense—argued that his sentence is unconstitutional in light of the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama, ––– U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2475, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012). We affirm the circuit court's summary dismissal of Williams's Rule 32 petition.

Facts and Procedural History

Jimmy Williams, Jr., was convicted of capital murder, see § 13A–5–40(a)(2), Ala.Code 1975, and of conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery, see § 13A–4–3, Ala.Code 1975. Williams, who was 15 years of age at the time of the offense, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the capital-murder conviction and was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for the conspiracy-to-commit-robbery conviction.

This Court affirmed Williams's convictions and sentences on direct appeal. See Williams v. State, 830 So.2d 45 (Ala.Crim.App.2001). Williams sought certiorari review in the Alabama Supreme Court; that Court, however, ultimately quashed the writ of certiorari it had issued, and issued a certificate of judgment in April 2002.

In June 2013, Williams filed in the circuit court a petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Rule 32, Ala. R.Crim. P., his first such petition. In his petition,

183 So.3d 201

Williams sought "relief from his unconstitutional sentence of life without parole." Specifically, Williams argued that, pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, his life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentence was unconstitutional, and Williams asked the circuit court, pursuant to Rule 32.1(a), (b), and (c), for a ruling invalidating his sentence. (C. 5.)

In response, the State asserted that Williams's petition was due to be dismissed. The State asserted that "Miller is not retroactive to cases on collateral appeal," that Williams's petition fell outside the scope of Rule 32.1, that Williams's petition was without merit, and that Williams's claims were precluded pursuant to Rule 32.2(a)(3) and (a)(5), Ala. R.Crim. P., as claims that could have been, but were not, raised at trial or on direct appeal. (C. 17.) In response, Williams asserted that Miller was, in fact, retroactive. The circuit court agreed with the State and entered an order, drafted by the State, dismissing Williams's petition. (C. 59–62.)

Standard of Review

The facts in this case are not in dispute, and the question before this Court—whether the rule announced in Miller is retroactive—is a purely legal one; accordingly, our standard of review is de novo. Acra v. State, 105 So.3d 460, 464 (Ala.Crim.App.2012).

In Miller, the United States Supreme Court held that "the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders," ––– U.S. at ––––, 132 S.Ct. at 2469, and that the Eighth Amendment "mandates ... that a sentencer follow a certain process—considering an offender's youth and attendant characteristics—before imposing a particular penalty." ––– U.S. at ––––, 132 S.Ct. at 2471.

Analysis

In addressing Williams's appeal, we first ask whether Williams's Miller claim may be raised under Rule 32.1, Ala. R.Crim. P. If it is, we then address whether Williams is entitled to relief on his claim that Miller is retroactive.1

I. Retroactive Application of Miller

A. Grounds for Relief

"Rule 32 provides a limited scope of review," and a petitioner is limited by the grounds identified in Rule 32.1. Acra, 105 So.3d at 464. In his petition, Williams asserted that he was entitled to relief under Rule 32.1(a), (b), and (c), Ala. R.Crim. P.

Regarding Rule 32.1(b) and (c) —that Williams's sentence is illegal and that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to sentence him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole—we do not find that these subsections apply. First, as the language of Miller makes clear, a life-imprisonment-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentence for a juvenile offender is not patently illegal. Miller, ––– U.S. at ––––, 132 S.Ct. at 2469 (noting that life-without-parole sentences are not foreclosed by Miller ); see also Mosley v. State, 986 So.2d 476, 477 (Ala.Crim.App.2007) ("A sentence that exceeds the maximum allowed by law is an illegal sentence affecting the trial court's jurisdiction."). Second, even if Miller foreclosed such a sentence, nothing in that decision implicates the jurisdiction of the circuit court to sentence Williams. See generally Ex parte Seymour, 946 So.2d 536 (Ala.2006).

183 So.3d 202

Nevertheless, Williams's claim—that he is constitutionally entitled to a new sentencing proceeding under Miller —is a claim that may be raised under Rule 32.1(a), Ala. R.Crim. P. Specifically, it is a claim alleging that "[t]he constitution of the United States.... requires ... a new sentencing proceeding." Rule 32.1(a), Ala. R.Crim. P. Accordingly, Williams has asserted a claim that seeks appropriate relief under Rule 32.1(a), Ala. R.Crim. P.

B. Application of Miller to Williams

We must next determine whether Williams is entitled to relief on his Miller claim; this question turns on the retroactivity of the Miller decision.

Retroactivity

"In Teague [v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989) ], and subsequent cases, [the United States Supreme Court] ... laid out the framework to be used in determining whether a rule announced in one of [its] opinions should be applied retroactively to judgments in criminal cases that are already final on direct review." Whorton v. Bockting, 549 U.S. 406, 416, 127 S.Ct. 1173, 167 L.Ed.2d 1 (2007).2

"Using this framework, we first ask whether the rule announced in an opinion is a new rule or whether it is an old rule. ‘[A]n old rule applies both on direct and collateral review, but a new rule is generally applicable only to cases that are still on direct review.’ Id. (emphasis added). A new rule, however, may apply to cases on collateral review if ‘the rule[ ] come[s] within ... the ... exceptions to the general principle that new rules will not be applied on collateral review.’ Saffle v. Parks, 494 U.S. 484, 494, 110 S.Ct. 1257, 108 L.Ed.2d 415 (1990)."

Acra v. State, 105 So.3d 460, 466 (Ala.Crim.App.2012).

"In this case, it is undisputed that [Williams's] conviction became final on direct appeal well before [Miller ] was decided. We therefore turn to the question of whether [Miller ] applied an old rule or announced a new one." Whorton, 549 U.S. at 416. "[A]n old rule applies both on direct and collateral review" and, thus, is retroactive. Whorton, 549 U.S. at 416. "A new rule applies only to cases that still are on direct review, unless one of two exceptions applies." Chaidez v. United States, 655 F.3d 684, 689 (7th Cir.2011).

If the Miller rule is a new rule, this Court must then determine whether "the rule[ ] come[s] within ... the ... exceptions to the general principle that new rules will not be applied on collateral review." Saffle v. Parks, 494 U.S. 484, 494, 110 S.Ct. 1257, 108 L.Ed.2d 415 (1990). "If the holding in [Miller ] applies retroactively to cases on collateral review, [Williams] is not excluded from relief by the grounds of preclusion set out in Rule 32.2, Ala. R.Crim. P." Acra, 105 So.3d at 465. Finally—although not part of the Teague analysis—we address Williams's argument that the rule announced in Miller

183 So.3d 203

is retroactive because that rule was applied to a petitioner's claim in postconviction proceedings in Jackson v. Hobbs, the companion case decided in the same opinion as Miller.

a. Old Rule or New Rule

"[A] new rule [i]s a rule that ‘breaks new ground,’ ‘imposes a new obligation on the States or the Federal Government,’ or was not ‘dictated by precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final.’ " Saffle, 494 U.S. at 488. "[A] rule is old if a ‘court considering the defendant's claim at the time his conviction became final would have felt compelled by existing precedent to conclude that the rule he seeks was required by the Constitution.’ " United States v. Chang Hong, 671 F.3d 1147, 1153 (10th Cir.2011) (quoting O'Dell v. Netherland, 521 U.S. 151, 156, 117 S.Ct. 1969, 138 L.Ed.2d 351 (1997) ).

"It seems evident from Supreme Court precedent that [a case] cannot be an old rule simply because existing case law ‘inform[ed], or even control[led] or
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15 practice notes
  • Wynn v. State, CR-14-1261
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 9 Septiembre 2016
    ...cases on collateral review. (CR. 1738.) At the time, the circuit court's ruling was consistent with Alabama law. See Williams v. State, 183 So. 3d 198 (Ala.Crim.App.2014), vacated by Williams v. Alabama, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1365, 194 L.Ed.2d 347 (2016).10 Section 13A–5–39(1), Ala. Code......
  • THE TRILOGY AND BEYOND.
    • United States
    • South Dakota Law Review Vol. 62 Nbr. 3, September 2017
    • 22 Septiembre 2017
    ...parte Maxwell, 424 S.W.3d 66, 75-76 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014). (97.) State v. Mares, 335 P.3d 487, 508 (Wyo. 2014). (98.) Williams v. State, 183 So. 3d 198, 219-20 (Ala. Crim. App. 2014). (99.) State v. Tate, 130 So. 3d 829, 843-44 (La. 2013). (100.) People v. Carp, 852 N.W.2d 801, 849 (Mich. ......
  • Williams v. State (Ex parte Williams), 1131160.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 27 Marzo 2015
    ...had become final before its pronouncement and that, therefore, Williams was not entitled to a new sentencing hearing. Williams v. State, 183 So.3d 198 (Ala.Crim.App.2014). Specifically, that court held that Miller did not apply retroactively and, consequently, that Williams's sentence was n......
  • Boyd v. State, CR-18-0288
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 25 Octubre 2019
    ...on January 6, 2014. This Court, however, reversed the circuit court's judgment based on this Court's holding in Williams v. State, 183 So. 3d 198 (Ala. Crim. App. 2014), that Miller did not apply retroactively. See State v. Boyd, 183 So. 3d 236 (Ala. Crim. App. 2014). Once the matter was re......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Wynn v. State, CR-14-1261
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 9 Septiembre 2016
    ...cases on collateral review. (CR. 1738.) At the time, the circuit court's ruling was consistent with Alabama law. See Williams v. State, 183 So. 3d 198 (Ala.Crim.App.2014), vacated by Williams v. Alabama, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1365, 194 L.Ed.2d 347 (2016).10 Section 13A–5–39(1), Ala. Code......
  • Williams v. State (Ex parte Williams), 1131160.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 27 Marzo 2015
    ...had become final before its pronouncement and that, therefore, Williams was not entitled to a new sentencing hearing. Williams v. State, 183 So.3d 198 (Ala.Crim.App.2014). Specifically, that court held that Miller did not apply retroactively and, consequently, that Williams's sentence was n......
  • Boyd v. State, CR-18-0288
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 25 Octubre 2019
    ...on January 6, 2014. This Court, however, reversed the circuit court's judgment based on this Court's holding in Williams v. State, 183 So. 3d 198 (Ala. Crim. App. 2014), that Miller did not apply retroactively. See State v. Boyd, 183 So. 3d 236 (Ala. Crim. App. 2014). Once the matter was re......
  • Click v. State, CR–12–0941.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 8 Julio 2016
    ...his Miller claim was jurisdictional.On April 4, 2014, while Click's Rule 32 petition was pending, this Court decided Williams v. State, 183 So.3d 198 (Ala.Crim.App.2014), aff'd Ex parte Williams, 183 So.3d 220, 221 (Ala.2015). Williams held that the rule announced in Miller does not apply t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • THE TRILOGY AND BEYOND.
    • United States
    • South Dakota Law Review Vol. 62 Nbr. 3, September 2017
    • 22 Septiembre 2017
    ...parte Maxwell, 424 S.W.3d 66, 75-76 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014). (97.) State v. Mares, 335 P.3d 487, 508 (Wyo. 2014). (98.) Williams v. State, 183 So. 3d 198, 219-20 (Ala. Crim. App. 2014). (99.) State v. Tate, 130 So. 3d 829, 843-44 (La. 2013). (100.) People v. Carp, 852 N.W.2d 801, 849 (Mich. ......

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