The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled on Friday that in a very narrow set of cases Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court banning mandatory life without parole for juveniles, is retroactive.
In Commonwealth v. Kevin Lofton, 281 EDA 2012 the court ruled that Lofton who was sentence to life in prison for second degree murder in 2011 is entitled to be resentenced.
On appeal, Lofton raised the issue that life in prison without parole violates his federal due process, equal protection, and Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment and the corresponding rights under the Pennsylvania Constitution.
The court found that the new U.S. Supreme Court ruling would be applied retroactively to cases were the constitutional issue is properly preserved at all stages of adjudication up to and including any direct appeal.
Commonwealth v. Roney, 866 A.2d 351 (2005) held that new federal constitutional rules involving criminal law apply to all cases still pending on direct appeal where the issue is preserved at the trial level and on appeal.
Pennsylvania leads the nation in offenders serving life without parole for offenses committed as juveniles. The Lofton Court left the general question of retroactivity unanswered. In a footnote the court suggested, “Accordingly, whether a juvenile convicted of first or second degree murder would be entitled to retroactive application of Miller on direct appeal where he did not contest the constitutionality of his sentence must be left for another day.”
Full opinion: http://www.pacourts.us/OpPosting/Superior/out/s71012_12.pdf