Ex parte Jimmy Williams, Jr.
State of Alabama In re: Jimmy Williams, Jr.
Montgomery Circuit Court, CC-98-2385.60; Court of Criminal
Justice. Bolin, Parker, Shaw, Main, Wise, and Bryan, JJ.,
concur. Moore, C.J., and Murdock, J., dissent.
FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CRIMINAL
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.
and Procedural History
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.
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.
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, [Ms. CR-12-1862, April 4, 2014]
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.
criminal cases, this Court reviews pure questions of law de
Ex parte Harrison, 61 So.3d 986, 989-90 (Ala. 2010).
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 offense 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.
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.
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 firstdegree-murder conviction
that precluded consideration of the character and the record
of the defendant and circumstances surrounding the offense
violated the Eighth Amendment); Lockett v. Ohio, 438
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.
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.
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 because of
the great difficulty we noted in Roper and Graham of
distinguishing at this early age between 'the juvenile
offender whose crime reflects unfortunate yet transient
immaturity, and the rare juvenile offender whose crime
reflects irreparable corruption.' ... Although we do not
foreclose a sentencer's ability to [impose a sentence of
life imprisonment without parole] in homicide cases, we
require it to take into account how children are different,
and how those differences counsel against irrevocably
sentencing them to a lifetime in prison."
567 U.S. at __, 132 S.Ct. at 2469.
accordance with Miller, this Court in Ex parte
Henderson, 144 So.3d 1262, 1284 (Ala. 2013), held that a
trial court must consider numerous factors before sentencing
a juvenile defendant convicted of a capital offense, stating:
" We hold that a sentencing hearing for a juvenile
convicted of a capital offense must now include consideration
of: (1) the juvenile's chronological age at the time of
the offense and the hallmark features of youth, such as
immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and
consequences; (2) the juvenile's diminished culpability;
(3) the circumstances of the offense; (4) the extent of the
juvenile's participation in the crime; (5) the
juvenile's family, home, and neighborhood environment;
(6) the juvenile's emotional maturity and development;
(7) whether familial and/or peer pressure affected the
juvenile; (8) the juvenile's past exposure to violence;
(9) the juvenile's drug and alcohol history; (10) the
juvenile's ability to deal with the police; (11) the
juvenile's capacity to assist his or her attorney; (12)
the juvenile's mental-health history; (13) the
juvenile's potential for rehabilitation; and (14) any
other relevant factor related to the juvenile's youth.
See generally Commonwealth v. Knox[, 2012 PA Super
147, 50 A.3d 732 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2012)]."
Rule 32 petition, Williams sought the benefit of the
application of the rule announced in Miller and applied in
Henderson. Because Williams's conviction for capital
murder and his sentence of life imprisonment without the
possibility of parole became final 11 years before the United
States Supreme Court decided Miller, he is entitled to be
resentenced if Miller applies retroactively to cases that
became final before its pronouncement. Thus, the dispositive
question before this Court is whether Miller is subject to
retroactive application in cases on collateral review.
Whorton v. Bockting, 549 U.S. 406, 416, 127 S.Ct. 1173,
167 L.Ed.2d 1 (2007), the Supreme Court provided that, when
determining whether a rule should be applied retroactively, a
court must first determine whether the rule is a new rule or
an old rule. The Supreme Court held that " an 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." 549 U.S. at 416. The Supreme Court
defined a new rule as " 'a rule that ... was not
" dictated by precedent existing at the time the
defendant's conviction became final." '"
549 U.S. at 416 (quoting Saffle v. Parks, 494 U.S.
484, 488, 110 S.Ct. 1257, 108 L.Ed.2d 415 (1990), quoting in
turn Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 301, 109 S.Ct.
1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334 (1989)). For a new rule to apply to
cases that are already final, " the Court's holdings
[must] logically permit no other conclusion than that the
rule is retroactive." Tyler v. Cain, 533 U.S.
656, 669, 121 S.Ct. 2478, 150 L.Ed.2d 632
(2001)(O'Connor, J., concurring).
parte Harris, 947 So.2d 1139, 1143-47 (Ala. 2006), this Court
recognized that, in determining whether a new rule of
constitutional law applies retroactively, Alabama had adopted
the analysis provided by the United States Supreme Court in
Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103
L.Ed.2d 334 (1989). Teague established that " a case
announces a new rule when it breaks ground or imposes a new
obligation on the States or Federal Government." 489
U.S. at 301. Teague provided that " new rules should
always be applied retroactively to cases on direct review,
but ... generally they should not be applied retroactively to
criminal cases on collateral review." 489 U.S. at 303.
The Teague Court reasoned that because collateral review is
not a substitute for direct review and because the government
has a legitimate interest in the finality of judgments, new
rules of constitutional law should not be applied
retroactively unless special circumstances exist. Teague set
forth two exceptions to the general rule of nonretroactivity
for new rules in criminal cases
on collateral review: First, a new rule should be applied
retroactively when the new rule " places 'certain
kinds of primary, private individual conduct beyond the power
of the criminal law-making authority to proscribe,'"
489 U.S. at 311 (quoting Mackey v. United States,
401 U.S. 667, 692, 91 S.Ct. 1160, 28 L.Ed.2d 404
(1971)(Harlan, J., concurring in the judgments in part and
dissenting in part)); second, a new procedural rule should be
applied retroactively on collateral review when the new rule
" requires the observance of 'those procedures that
... are " implicit in the concept of ordered
liberty." '" 489 U.S. at 311 (quoting Mackey,
401 U.S. at 692).
United States Supreme Court in Schriro v. Summerlin,
542 U.S. 348, 124 S.Ct. 2519, 159 L.Ed.2d 442 (2004),
provided further explanation of the Teague retroactivity
analysis, observing that the key distinction in the analysis
is whether the new rule of constitutional law is substantive
or procedural. The Summerlin Court explained that a
substantive rule is one that limits a criminal statute by
interpreting its terms or " place[s] particular conduct
or persons covered by the statute beyond the State's
power to punish." 542 U.S. at 352. The Summerlin Court
further explained with regard to punishment that a new
substantive rule included a rule prohibiting a certain
category of punishment for a group of defendants because of
their status or offense. 542 U.S. at 353. According to the
Summerlin Court, such a rule is substantive and applies
retroactively because the new rule carries a "
'significant risk that a defendant stands convicted of
" an act that the law does not make criminal" '
or faces a punishment that the law cannot impose upon
him." 542 U.S. at 352.
the Summerlin Court explained that new procedural rules do
not apply retroactively because they " merely raise the
possibility that someone convicted with use of the
invalidated procedure might have been acquitted
otherwise." 542 U.S. at 352 (emphasis added). The
Supreme Court reasoned that in light of " this more
speculative connection to innocence," a new procedural
rule is watershed and applies retroactively only when the
fundamental fairness and accuracy of the criminal ...