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Montgomery v. Louisiana

Supreme Court of the United States

October 13, 2015, Argued; January 25, 2016, Decided

No. 14-280


 [*725]  [**610]   Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is another case in a series of decisions involving the sentencing of offenders who were juveniles when their crimes were committed. In Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 183 L. Ed. 2d 407 (2012), the Court held that a juvenile convicted of a homicide offense could not be sentenced to life in prison without parole absent consideration of the juvenile’s special circumstances in light of the principles and purposes of juvenile sentencing. In the wake of Miller, the question has arisen whether its holding is retroactive to juvenile offenders whose convictions and sentences were final when Miller  was decided. Courts have reached different conclusions on this point. Compare, e.g., Martin v. Symmes, 782 F. 3d 939, 943 (CA8 2015); Johnson v. Ponton, 780 F. 3d 219, 224-226 (CA4 2015); Chambers v. State, 831 N. W. 2d 311, 331 (Minn. 2013); and State v. Tate, 2012-2763, p. 17 (La. 11/5/13), 130 So. 3d 829, 841, with Diatchenko v. District Attorney for Suffolk Dist., 466 Mass. 655, 661-667, 1 N. E. 3d 270, 278-282 (2013); Aiken v. Byars, 410 S. C. 534, 548, 765 S. E. 2d 572, 578 (2014); State v. Mares, 2014 WY 126, ¶¶47-63, 335 P. 3d 487, 504-508; and People v. Davis, 2014 IL 115595, ¶41, 6 N. E. 3d 709, 722.  [***7]  Certiorari was granted in this case to resolve the question.

Petitioner is Henry Montgomery. In 1963, Montgomery killed Charles Hurt, a deputy sheriff in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Montgomery was 17 years old at the time of the crime. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed his conviction after finding that public prejudice had prevented a fair trial. State v. Montgomery, 248 LA. 713, 181 So. 2d 756, 762 (La. 1966).

Montgomery was retried. The jury returned a verdict of “guilty without capital punishment.”  [*726] State v. Montgomery, 257 La. 461, 242 So. 2d 818 (La. 1970). Under Louisiana law, this verdict required the trial court to impose a sentence of life without parole. The sentence was automatic upon the jury’s verdict, so Montgomery had no opportunity to present mitigation evidence to justify a less severe sentence. That evidence might have included Montgomery’s young age at the time of the crime; expert testimony regarding his limited capacity for foresight, self-discipline, and judgment; and his potential for rehabilitation. Montgomery, now 69 years old, has spent almost his entire life in prison.

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136 S. Ct. 718 *; 193 L. Ed. 2d 599 **; 2016 U.S. LEXIS 862 ***; 84 U.S.L.W. 4063; 25 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 611


Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Subsequent History: As Revised January 25, 2016.

On remand at, Remanded by State v. Montgomery, 2016 La. LEXIS 1539 (La., June 28, 2016)


State v. Montgomery, 141 So. 3d 264, 2014 La. LEXIS 1538 (La., 2014)

Disposition: 2013-1163 (La. 6/20/14), 141 So. 3d 264, reversed and remanded.


sentence, courts, substantive rule, retroactivity, parole, collateral review, juvenile, convictions, cases, offenders, proceedings, announced, postconviction, juvenile offender, state court, retroactive effect, direct review, new rule, Eighth Amendment, prison, constitutional right, void, disproportionate, federal court, rule of construction, constitutional law, youth, habeas corpus, life-without-parole, immaturity

Criminal Law & Procedure, Juvenile Offenders, Sentencing, Age & Term Limits, Criminal Offenses, Homicide, Manslaughter & Murder, Imposition of Sentence, Factors, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Cruel & Unusual Punishment, Proportionality, Corrections, Modifications & Reductions, Illegal Sentences, Postconviction Proceedings, Appeals, Proportionality & Reasonableness Review, Reviewability, Discretionary Review, Procedural Defenses, Retroactivity of Decisions, Retroactive Treatment, Retroactive Treatment, Substantive Rules, Nonretroactive Treatment, Teague Rule, Teague Exceptions, Supremacy Clause, Governments, Police Powers, Nonretroactive Treatment, Jurisdiction & Venue, Jurisdiction, The Judiciary, Case or Controversy, Constitutionality of Legislation, Sentencing, Imposition of Sentence, Findings, Postconviction Proceedings, Parole