Williams v. State (Ex parte Williams), 1131160.

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtSTUART, Justice.
Citation183 So.3d 220
Parties Ex parte Jimmy Williams, Jr. (In re Jimmy WILLIAMS, Jr. v. STATE of Alabama).
Decision Date27 March 2015
Docket Number1131160.

183 So.3d 220

Ex parte Jimmy Williams, Jr.

(In re Jimmy WILLIAMS, Jr.
v.
STATE of Alabama).

1131160.

Supreme Court of Alabama.

March 27, 2015.
Rehearing Denied May 22, 2015.


183 So.3d 220

Bryan A. Stevenson, Charlotte R. Morrison, and Alicia A. D'Addario, Montgomery, for petitioner.

183 So.3d 221

Luther Strange, atty. gen., and Andrew L. Brasher, deputy atty. gen., and Lauren A. Simpson, asst. atty. gen., for respondent.

STUART, Justice.

This Court issued the writ of certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals that the rule announced by the United States Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), does not apply retroactively to cases that became final before its pronouncement. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

In August 2000, Jimmy Williams, Jr., was convicted of murder made capital because it was committed during a robbery, see § 13A–5–40(a)(2), Ala.Code 1975, an offense he committed when he was 15 years old. In accordance with the applicable law at the time of Williams's sentencing, see § 13A–6–2(c), Ala.Code 1975, Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815, 817, 108 S.Ct. 2687, 101 L.Ed.2d 702 (1988), the trial court sentenced Williams to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the only possible sentence and one that was mandatory. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Williams's conviction and sentence. Williams v. State, 830 So.2d 45 (Ala.Crim.App.2001), writ quashed, 830 So.2d 45 (Ala.2002). The Court of Criminal Appeals issued its certificate of judgment in April 2002.

In June 2013, Williams petitioned the circuit court, see Rule 32, Ala. R.Crim. P., for a new sentencing hearing, asserting that under Miller, decided a year earlier, the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole to which he was sentenced in 2000 for an offense committed when he was 15 years old was unconstitutional and, consequently, that he was entitled to be resentenced based on the individualized sentencing factors discussed in Miller. Specifically, Williams alleged that, under Rule 32.1(a), a new sentence proceeding was required because, he said, his sentence of life imprisonment without parole was unconstitutional; that, under Rule 32.1(b), the trial court was without jurisdiction to impose the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole; and that, under Rule 32.1(c), his mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole was not authorized by law. The State moved to dismiss Williams's petition, asserting, among other reasons, that Miller did not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review, i.e., that Miller did not apply to cases that became final before its pronouncement. The circuit court dismissed Williams's petition, and Williams appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the circuit court's judgment, holding that Miller set forth a new rule of criminal procedure that did not apply to cases that 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 not unconstitutional and he was not entitled to a new sentencing hearing under Rule 32.1(a). Additionally, the Court of Criminal Appeals held that the trial court had jurisdiction to impose Williams's sentence and, therefore, that he was not entitled to relief under Rule 32.1(b) and that Williams's sentence to life imprisonment without parole was not illegal and, therefore, that Rule 32.1(c) did not provide a meritorious ground for relief.

Standard of Review

In criminal cases, this Court reviews pure questions of law de novo. Ex

183 So.3d 222

parte Harrison, 61 So.3d 986, 989–90 (Ala.2010).

Discussion

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court addressed whether state statutes that mandate the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a juvenile defendant convicted of a capital offense1 violated the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Miller, 567 U.S. at ––––, 132 S.Ct. at 2460. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that a statute mandating a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a juvenile defendant violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court further held that the sentencing of a juvenile defendant must be individualized and that the sentencer must consider the juvenile defendant's age, the attendant circumstances of youth, and the nature of the offense before imposing a sentence. The Miller Court did not forbid the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on a juvenile defendant; rather, the Court stated that such a sentence would be a rarity.

In reaching its decision the Miller Court considered two lines of precedent. First, it evaluated the line of cases holding that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment categorically bans sentencing statutes that do not take into consideration the culpability of a class of offenders and the severity of the penalty imposed. See Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010) (holding unconstitutional a sentence of life imprisonment without parole for juvenile offenders who committed a non-homicide offense); Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183, 161 L.Ed.2d 1 (2005) (holding unconstitutional a sentence of death for a defendant who is under the age of 18 at the time the underlying offense is committed); and Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2002) (holding unconstitutional a sentence of death for an intellectually disabled defendant). These cases addressed a specific type of punishment for an identifiable class of defendants, adopting "categorical bans on sentencing practices based on mismatches between the culpability of a class of offenders and the severity of a penalty." Miller, 567 U.S. at ––––, 132 S.Ct. at 2463. From Graham and Roper, the Supreme Court observed that the sentencing of a juvenile is different from the sentencing of an adult because a juvenile, in light of his or her age, lacks maturity, is vulnerable to negative influences and outside pressures, and is continuing to develop his or her character. The Supreme Court concluded that for these reasons "juveniles have diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform" and thus are " ‘less deserving of the most severe punishments.’ " 567 U.S. at ––––, 132 S.Ct. at 2464.

The Miller Court then considered the line of cases requiring a sentencer to conduct individualized sentencing when determining whether to impose a sentence of death. See Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280, 96 S.Ct. 2978, 49 L.Ed.2d 944 (1976) (plurality opinion)(holding that a mandatory death sentence for a first-degree-murder conviction that precluded consideration of the character and the record of the defendant and circumstances surrounding the offense violated the Eighth Amendment);

183 So.3d 223

Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978) (holding that a statute mandating imposition of the death penalty for a capital-murder conviction violated the Eighth Amendment because it prevented individualized consideration of mitigating circumstances); and Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 105, 102 S.Ct. 869, 71 L.Ed.2d 1 (1982) (holding that the Eighth Amendment required individualized consideration of relevant mitigating circumstances including defendant's character and record before death sentence could be imposed). Recognizing that the Eighth Amendment required individualized sentencing for an adult defendant before the imposition of the most severe punishment of death and that the sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a juvenile defendant is the equivalent of a death sentence for an adult defendant, the Supreme Court held in Miller that the Eighth Amendment compelled individualized sentencing before a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole could be imposed on a juvenile defendant.

Merging the two lines of precedent—establishing, first, that juvenile defendants are less culpable and more susceptible to reform than are adult defendants and, second, that individualized sentencing was required before the harshest punishment of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole could be imposed on juvenile defendants—the Supreme Court held that "the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders." Miller, 567 U.S. at ––––, ––––, 132 S.Ct. at 2464, 2469.

The Miller Court admonished:

"[G]iven 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. That is especially so
...

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6 practice notes
  • Willbanks v. Mo. Dep't of Corr., No. SC 95395
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 11, 2017
    ...852 N.W.2d 801, 811 (2014), cert. granted, judgment vacated, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1355, 194 L.Ed.2d 339 (2016); Ex parte Williams, 183 So.3d 220 (Ala. 2015), cert. granted, judgment vacated sub nom. Williams v. Alabama, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1365, 194 L.Ed.2d 347 (2016).18 In fact, e......
  • Shrove v. State, CR-19-0043
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • December 16, 2020
    ...‘ "a rule that ... was not ‘dictated by precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final.’ " ’ " Ex parte Williams, 183 So. 3d 220, 224 (Ala. 2015) (quoting Whorton v. Bockting, 549 U.S. 406, 416, 127 S.Ct. 1173, 167 L.Ed.2d 1 (2007), quoting in turn Saffle v. Parks, 4......
  • Shrove v. State, CR-19-0043
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • December 16, 2020
    ...that ... was not 'dictated by precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final.' " ' "Page 13 Ex parte Williams, 183 So. 3d 220, 224 (Ala. 2015) (quoting Whorton v. Bockting, 549 U.S. 406, 416 (2007), quoting in turn Saffle v. Parks, 494 U.S. 484, 488 (1990), quoting i......
  • Click v. State, CR–12–0941.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • July 8, 2016
    ...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 to cases on collateral review. Williams v. State, 183 So.3d a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Willbanks v. Mo. Dep't of Corr., No. SC 95395
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 11, 2017
    ...852 N.W.2d 801, 811 (2014), cert. granted, judgment vacated, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1355, 194 L.Ed.2d 339 (2016); Ex parte Williams, 183 So.3d 220 (Ala. 2015), cert. granted, judgment vacated sub nom. Williams v. Alabama, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1365, 194 L.Ed.2d 347 (2016).18 In fact, e......
  • Shrove v. State, CR-19-0043
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • December 16, 2020
    ...‘ "a rule that ... was not ‘dictated by precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final.’ " ’ " Ex parte Williams, 183 So. 3d 220, 224 (Ala. 2015) (quoting Whorton v. Bockting, 549 U.S. 406, 416, 127 S.Ct. 1173, 167 L.Ed.2d 1 (2007), quoting in turn Saffle v. Parks, 4......
  • Shrove v. State, CR-19-0043
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • December 16, 2020
    ...that ... was not 'dictated by precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final.' " ' "Page 13 Ex parte Williams, 183 So. 3d 220, 224 (Ala. 2015) (quoting Whorton v. Bockting, 549 U.S. 406, 416 (2007), quoting in turn Saffle v. Parks, 494 U.S. 484, 488 (1990), quoting i......
  • Click v. State, CR–12–0941.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • July 8, 2016
    ...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 to cases on collateral review. Williams v. State, 183 So.3d a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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