September 5, 2014
State of Alabama
Trace Royal Duncan
from Jefferson Circuit Court. (CC-94-3624.61).
Appellant: Luther Strange, Atty. Gen., Lauren A. Simpson,
Asst. Atty. Gen.
Appellee: Ryan C. Becker, Montgomery.
Judge. Kellum, Burke, and Joiner, JJ., concur. Windom, P.J.,
an appeal by the State of Alabama from an order of the
circuit court granting postconviction relief to Trace Royal
Duncan pursuant to Rule 32, Ala. R. Crim. P. Duncan's
petition attacked his sentence to life in prison without the
possibility of parole following his November 2, 1995,
convictions for the capital offenses of intentional murder
during a kidnapping, see § 13A-5-40(a)(1), Ala. Code
1975, and intentional murder during a robbery, see §
13A-5-40(a)(2), Ala. Code 1975. The offenses were committed
when Duncan was 17 years old. On September 17, 1999, this
Court affirmed Duncan's convictions and sentence.
Duncan v. State, 827 So.2d 838 (Ala.Crim.App. 1999).
on March 30, 2001, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed this
Court's judgment. This Court issued a certificate of
judgment on February 26, 2002. On July 29, 2003, Duncan filed
his first Rule 32 petition. Pursuant to that petition and the
United States Supreme Court'S decision in Roper v.
Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183, 161 L.Ed.2d 1
(2005), holding that a death sentence for a juvenile offender
is unconstitutional, Duncan was relieved of his death
sentence and was resentenced to life in prison without the
possibility of parole. Duncan v. State, 925 So.2d
245 (Ala.Crim.App. 2005).
6, 2013, Duncan filed the instant Rule 32 petition, his
second, in which he argued that because he was 17 years old
at the time he committed the murder, the recent holding of
the United States Supreme Court in Miller v.
Alabama, __ U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407
(2012), rendered his sentence unconstitutional and entitled
him to a new sentencing hearing. On July 3, 2013, the State
filed a motion to dismiss in which it argued that
Duncan's petition was procedurally barred under Rules
32.2(a)(3), 32.2(a)(5), and 32.2(b), Ala. R. Crim. P., and
that it was without merit because the holding in Miller is
not retroactive. Also on July 3, 2013,
Duncan filed a response to the State's motion in which he
argued that the holding in Miller is retroactive and that his
claim was not subject to the procedural bars raised by the
State. On October 15, 2013, the circuit court held a hearing
on the State's motion to dismiss. On March 3, 2014, the
circuit court issued an order granting Duncan's petition.
The State now appeals.
appeal, the State reasserts the arguments raised below and
cites this Court's opinion in Williams v. State,
[Ms. CR-12-1862, April 4, 2014] 183 So.3d 198 (Ala.Crim.App.
2014), as support for reversing the circuit court's order
granting the relief requested in Duncan's Rule 32
Court's opinion in State v. Boyd, [Ms.
CR-13-0489, June 13, 2014] 183 So.3d 236 (Ala.Crim.App.
2014), which is cited below, resolves Duncan's appeal.
" In Miller, the Supreme Court of the United States held
that the Eighth Amendment forbids 'a sentencing scheme
that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole
for juvenile offenders.' Miller, U.S. at __, 132 S.Ct. at
2469. Rather, the Supreme Court said, juvenile offenders are
entitled to individualized sentencing, where the sentencer
takes 'into account how children are different, and how
those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them
to a lifetime in prison.' Id.
" In Williams v. State, [Ms. CR-12-1862, April
4, 2014] 183 So.3d 198 (Ala.Crim.App. 2014), this Court held
that claims based on Miller are nonjurisdictional claims
properly raised in a collateral proceeding under Rule
32.1(a), Ala. R. Crim. P. __ So.3d at __. Further, this Court
held that, under the framework established in Teague v.
Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334
(1989), the rule announced in Miller is a new rule, and that
it is not a substantive rule nor is it a 'watershed'
procedural rule. __ So.3d at __. As a result, this Court held
that Miller is not subject to retroactive application. __
So.3d at __.
" '" A judge abuses his discretion only when
his decision is based on an erroneous conclusion of law or
where the record contains no evidence on which he rationally
could have based his decision." Miller v.
State, 63 So.3d 676, 697 (Ala.Crim.App. 2010).'
State v. Thomas, 137 So.3d 933, 937 (Ala.Crim.App.
2012). Here, the granting of Boyd's petition by the
circuit court was based on an erroneous conclusion of law
because Miller does not apply to cases, like Boyd's, on
collateral review. See Williams, __ So.3d __at __."
So.3d at __.
circuit court abused its discretion in granting Duncan's
petition, and its judgment is due to be reversed.
Accordingly, the judgment of the circuit court is reversed
and this cause is remanded for proceedings consistent with
Burke, and Joiner, JJ., concur. Windom, P.J., recuses
It appears from the record that the
State's motion and the petitioner's response were
electronically filed on the same day.