Wednesday, October 30, 2013

PA Supreme Court Miller v. Alabama not retroactive

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided Commonwealth v. Ian Cunningham, a 4-3 decision finding Miller v. Alabama is not retroactive.  The deciding fourth vote was by Justice Correale F. Stevens who was not on the Court when Cunningham was argued last September. 
In Miller v. Alabama the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory life in prison for juveniles convicted of murder. I wrote about the delay and presumed split in Cunningham for the Pennsylvania Law Weekly last month.
According to Cunningham, Miller only applies to cases that were pending on appeal at the time Miller was decided, in June, 2012.  The majority opinion written by Justice Thomas G. Saylor found, "Here, applying settled principles of appellate review, nothing in Appellant’s arguments persuades us that Miller’s proscription of the imposition of mandatory life-without-parole sentences upon offenders under the age of eighteen at the time their crimes were committed must be extended to those whose judgments of sentence were final as of the time of Miller’s announcement."
Justice Max Baer wrote a dissenting opinion.

Attorneys for Cunningham intend to seek review by the United States Supreme Court.
There have been a number of conflicting decision among state and federal circuits with regard to Miller v. Alabama. Last month, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in In re Michael J. Pendleton, No. 12-3617; In re Franklin X. Baines, No. 12-3996; and In re Corey Grant, 13-1455, that three men, two from Pennsylvania and one from New Jersey, sentenced as juveniles to life in prison, will have a chance to argue that Miller is retroactive.

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