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Bramlett v. Hobbs

Supreme Court of Arkansas

April 9, 2015

STEVEN WAYNE BRAMLETT, APPELLANT
v.
RAY HOBBS, DIRECTOR, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, APPELLEE

Editorial Note:

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the printed official reporter.

APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CV-11-642-5. HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE.

Steven Wayne Bramlett, Pro se, appellant.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Karen Virginia Wallace, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

OPINION

KAREN R. BAKER, Associate Justice

On October 30, 1979, Appellant, Steven Wayne Bramlett, entered a negotiated plea of guilty to attempted capital murder and was sentenced to life in the Arkansas Department of Correction. The record demonstrates that Bramlett was seventeen years old when he committed this offense.

On October 26, 2011, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 16-111-101 (Repl. 2010), Bramlett filed a pro se complaint for declaratory relief alleging that the parole-eligibility statute, codified at the time of the offense at Ark. Stat. Ann. § 43-2829[1]

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was unconstitutional as applied to Bramlett. Relying on Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010), Bramlett requested the circuit court find that his life sentence for criminal attempt to commit capital murder violates the Eighth Amendment and is unconstitutional as applied to him and remand his case to the circuit court for resentencing to a term of years. On December 7, 2011, Appellee, Ray Hobbs, as Director of the Arkansas Department of Correction (the State), responded with its motion to dismiss for failure to state facts for which relief can be granted, and also responded that the State was entitled to summary judgment pursuant to Ark. R. Civ. P. 56. On December 20, 2011, Bramlett responded to the State's motion to dismiss and on January 6, 2012, the State replied. On January 17, 2012, Bramlett responded to the State's reply and on January 20, 2012, the State filed a reply.

On March 16, 2012, the circuit court denied Bramlett's complaint for declaratory relief and granted the State's motion for summary judgment and dismissed Bramlett's action. On March 26, 2012, Bramlett filed his notice of appeal. On May 16, 2012, Bramlett filed his brief, the State timely responded, and Bramlett timely replied. On January 29, 2015, we issued a per curiam opinion and ordered Bramlett to supplement his addendum. Bramlett v. Hobbs, 2015 Ark. 32 (per curiam). We were unable to reach the merits of Bramlett's appeal because pleadings relied upon by the circuit court and the parties were omitted from Bramlett's addendum. On February 11, 2015, Bramlett supplemented his addendum and the matter is now properly before the court.

On appeal, Bramlett presents one issue: the circuit court erred by granting the State's motion for summary judgment holding that his life sentence for attempted capital murder does not violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Graham does not entitle Bramlett to relief.

The issue presented in this appeal stems from the circuit court's order granting the State's motion for summary judgment. The circuit court's March 16, 2012 order states in pertinent part:

In Graham the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits a juvenile offender from being sentenced to life without a possibility of parole for a nonhomicide offenc[sic][s]e. Graham at 2017-18.
Mr. Bramlett asks the Court to classify attempted capital murder as a nonhomicide offense. The parties did not cite nor has the Court found either a United States Supreme Court case or Arkansas case that has provided a list of crimes that fit into the category of a nonhomicide offense. A review of other States' cases reveals division.
Justice Kennedy explains that there are two types of Constitutional analyses. The first type is when a Court considers all of the circumstances of the case in determining whether a sentence for a term of years is grossly disproportionate

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for a particular defendant's crime rendering it unconstitutionally excessive. The other is a categorical approach which was the one applied in the Graham case. In Graham the Court looked at a particular type of sentence (life without parole) as it applied to an entire ...

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