Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's order denying Appellant a resentencing hearing and imposing a life sentence with parole eligibility pursuant to the Fair Sentencing with Minors Act of 2017 (FSMA), holding that the penalty provisions of the FSMA did not apply to Appellant. In 2000, Appellant pled guilty to capital murder and received a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. Appellant was sixteen years old at the time of the murder. After the United States Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), the circuit court granted habeas relief and vacated Appellant's life-without-parole sentence and remanded his case for resentencing. Before a resentencing hearing was held, however, the General Assembly passed the FSMA, which eliminated life without parole as a sentencing option for juvenile offenders and extended parole eligibility to juvenile offenders. On remand, the circuit court sentenced Appellant under the FSMA to life in prison with parole eligibility after thirty years. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because Appellant committed his crime before the effective date of the FMSA, the penalty provisions of the Act did not apply to him; and (2) Appellant was no longer serving a sentence to which parole eligibility could attach. View "Elliott v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant a resentencing hearing and imposing a life sentence with parole eligibility pursuant to the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act (FSMA), holding that because Appellant had his sentence vacated pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), Appellant was not subject to sentencing under the FSMA. Appellant was convicted of capital murder for an offense he committed when he was less than eighteen years of age. The jury sentenced Appellant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Appellant's sentence was later vacated pursuant to Miller. Before the resentencing hearing, the Arkansas General Assembly passed the FSMA. The circuit court sentenced Appellant under the FSMA to a term of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after thirty years. After the circuit court's order, the Supreme Court decided Harris v. State, 547 S.W.3d 64, in which the Court determined that individuals who had their sentences vacated pursuant to Miller were not subject to sentencing under the FSMA. On appeal, Appellant argued that his case should be controlled by Harris even where Harris was handed down after the circuit court's ruling. The Supreme Court agreed and remanded the case for resentencing in accordance with Harris. View "Williams v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant a resentencing hearing and imposing a life sentence with parole eligibility pursuant to the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act (FSMA), holding that the circuit court erred in sentencing Appellant under the FSMA because Appellant committed his crime before the effective date of the FSMA. In 1996, Appellant was convicted of capital murder and received a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Appellant was sixteen years old at the time of the crime. After the United States Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), Appellant filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus. The circuit court issued the writ, vacated Appellant's sentence, and remanded the case for resentencing. Before Appellant's resentencing hearing was held, the general assembly passed the FSMA, which eliminated life without parole as a sentencing option for juvenile offenders and extended parole eligibility to juvenile offenders. The circuit court retroactively applied the FSMA to Appellant and resentenced him to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after thirty years. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a resentencing hearing, holding that Harris v. State, 547 S.W.3d 64, controls this appeal and that the circuit court erred by sentencing Appellant under the FSMA. View "Miller v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant a resentencing hearing and imposing a life sentence with parole eligibility pursuant to the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act (FSMA), holding that Appellant was entitled to a new sentencing hearing based on this Court’s recent decision in Harris v. State, 547 S.W.3d 64. Appellant received a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole for a crime he committed when he was seventeen years old. After the United States Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), Appellant filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The circuit court granted the writ, vacated Appellant’s life without parole sentence, and remanded his case to the circuit court for resentencing. Before the resentencing hearing was held, the general assembly passed the FSMA, which eliminated life without parole as a sentencing option for juvenile offenders and extended parole eligibility to juvenile offenders. The circuit court proceeded to sentence Appellant under the new penalty provisions of the FSMA. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Appellant committed his crime before the effective date of the FSMA, the penalty provisions of the Act did not apply to him. View "Howell v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order denying Appellant a resentencing hearing and imposing a life sentence with parole eligibility pursuant to the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act (FSMA), holding that Appellant was entitled to a new sentencing hearing based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Harris v. State, 547 S.W.3d 64. In 2000, Appellant was convicted of capital murder for a crime that he committed when he was seventeen years old. Appellant received a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole. After Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), was decided, Appellant filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The circuit court granted the writ, vacated Appellant’s sentence, and remanded Appellant’s case for resentencing. Before Appellant’s resentencing hearing was held, the general assembly passed the FSMA, which eliminated life without parole as a sentencing option for juvenile offenders and extended parole eligibility to juvenile offenders. Thereafter, the circuit court resentenced Appellant to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after thirty years pursuant to the new penalty provisions of the FSMA. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Appellant committed the crime before the effective date of the FSMA, the penalty provisions of the FSMA did not apply to him. View "Howell v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant a resentencing hearing and imposing a sentence of life with parole eligibility pursuant to the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act (FSMA), 2017 Ark. Acts 2165, holding that the circuit court erred in applying the FSMA to Appellant’s case. Appellant was sixteen years old when he committed the crimes leading to his convictions for capital murder and theft of property. Appellant received a sentence of life imprisonment without parole for capital murder. After Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), was decided, Appellant petitioned for writ of habeas corpus. The circuit court granted the petition, vacated Appellant’s sentence, and remanded for resentencing. Before the circuit court could conduct a Miller hearing, the General Assembly passed the FSMA, which eliminated life without parole as a sentencing option for juvenile offenders. The State then filed a motion for resentencing under the FSMA. The circuit court relied on the FSMA’s provisions in resentencing Appellant to life with the possibility of parole after thirty years. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Appellant’s sentence had been vacated before the FSMA was enacted, the circuit court erred in applying the FSMA to Appellant’s case. The court remanded the case for a Miller hearing. View "Ray v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Appellant’s sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole imposed in connection with his conviction for one count of capital murder, holding that the circuit court erred in applying the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act of 2017 (FSMA), 2017 Ark Acts 2615, to Appellant’s case. Appellant was fifteen years old at the time of the offense. Appellant was originally sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, but following Miller, the circuit court granted Appellant’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, vacated his sentencing order and remanded the case for resentencing. The circuit court sentenced Appellant to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after thirty years based on the FSMA, holding that the FSMA applied retroactively. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred when it retroactively applied the penalty and parole provisions of the FSMA when resentencing Appellant; and (2) Appellant was entitled to a hearing to present evidence pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), for consideration and sentencing within the discretionary range for a Class Y felony. View "Segerstrom v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which Appellant argued that he should be reentenced because his sentence of life imprisonment imposed for an offense committed when he was a juvenile violated the Eighth Amendment pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012). Appellant pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other crimes stemming from offenses Appellant committed when he was fifteen years old. Appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s habeas petition, holding that because a recent statutory amendment by the Arkansas General Assembly created the possibility of parole for Appellant, Appellant’s sentence did not violate the requirements of Miller. View "Lohbauer v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the State’s appeal from the circuit court’s use of three nonmodel jury instructions at Appellee’s resentencing hearing, holding that the State failed to demonstrate that the appeal involved the correct and uniform administration of the law or that this was a proper State appeal. Appellee was resentenced after his life sentence was vacated for failure to comport with Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012). During the resentencing hearing, the circuit court instructed the jury with three nonmodel instructions based upon the Miller decision. The jury returned a sentence of forty years’ imprisonment, and the circuit court entered an order reducing Appellee’s sentence accordingly. The State appealed, arguing that the use of the nonmodel jury instruction was error. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that this was not a proper State appeal. View "State v. Lasley" on Justia Law

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Defendant, who was sixteen years old at the time of his arrest, was charged as an adult with robbery and aggravated assault. Defendant was subsequently interviewed by police in connection with an assault of a female. The day after he made a statement, Defendant was charged as an adult with residential burglary, sexual assault in the second degree, and aggravated assault. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the statement he made to police. The circuit court granted the motion to suppress, concluding that Defendant was unable to waive his right to counsel because he was in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Human Services at the time of the interview. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in its interpretation of Ark. Code Ann. 9-27-317(g) and therefore erred in granting Defendant’s motion to suppress. View "State v. Griffin" on Justia Law