FROM THE ASHLEY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 02CR-1983-56-3]
HONORABLE ROBERT BYNUM GIBSON, JR., JUDGE.
Montgomery, Adams & Wyatt, PLC, by: James W. Wyatt, for
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Christian Harris, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
DAN KEMP, CHIEF JUSTICE.
Vernon Robinson appeals from the Ashley County Circuit
Court's order denying him a resentencing hearing and
imposing a sentence of life with parole eligibility pursuant
to the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act of 2017 (FSMA or
"the Act"). We reverse the circuit court's order
and remand for resentencing in accordance with our decision
in Harris v. State, 2018 Ark. 179, 547 S.W.3d 64.
1983, Robinson pleaded guilty to the capital murder of Alice
Mosley. The crime carried a mandatory statutory penalty of
death or life imprisonment without parole. See Ark.
Stat. Ann. § 41-1501(3) (Repl. 1977). Robinson was
seventeen years old at the time of the murder, and he received
a sentence of life without parole. In 2012, the Supreme Court
of the United States held that "the Eighth Amendment
forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison
without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders."
Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 479 (2012). The
Court further held that defendants who committed homicide
crimes as juveniles and faced a sentence of life without
parole were entitled to a sentencing hearing that would
permit a judge or jury to consider the individual
characteristics of the defendant and the individual
circumstances of the crime as mitigating factors for a lesser
sentence. Id. at 489.
the Supreme Court's decision in Miller and this
court's decision on remand in Miller's
companion case, Jackson v. Norris, 2013 Ark. 175,
426 S.W.3d 906, Robinson petitioned for writ of habeas corpus
in the Lincoln County Circuit Court and argued that his
sentence was unconstitutional. On June 27, 2016, the circuit
court granted Robinson's petition, vacated his sentence,
and remanded his case to the Ashley County Circuit Court for
resentencing. The circuit court had yet to conduct a
Miller hearing, however, when the Arkansas General
Assembly passed the FSMA, which, among other things,
eliminated life without parole as a sentencing option for
juvenile offenders and extended parole eligibility to
juvenile offenders. Although Robinson's sentence had been
vacated before the FSMA was enacted, the circuit court
nevertheless relied on the Act's provisions in
resentencing him to life with the possibility of parole after
thirty years. On appeal, Robinson challenges the circuit
court's application of the FSMA to his case.
Harris, 2018 Ark. 179, 547 S.W.3d 64, this court
considered whether the FSMA's penalty and
parole-eligibility provisions apply to a defendant whose
sentence had been vacated before the FSMA was enacted. We
held that the penalty provisions of the FSMA are not
retroactive; therefore, the revised punishment for juveniles
convicted of capital murder applies only to crimes committed
on or after March 20, 2017, the effective date of the FSMA.
Id. at 14, 547 S.W.3d at 71. Further, we held that
the parole-eligibility provision did not apply at the time of
Harris's hearing because "by its plain language, the
provision applies only to those juvenile offenders who are
serving a sentence for either capital or first-degree
murder." Id. at 11, 547 S.W.3d at 70. Because
Harris's sentence was vacated in 2016, he was no longer
serving a sentence to which parole eligibility could attach.
Thus, the parole-eligibility provision did not apply to
Harris at the time of his May 8, 2017 hearing.
facts in this case are analogous to those in Harris.
Robinson, like Harris, committed his crime before the
effective date of the FSMA; therefore, the penalty provisions
do not apply. Robinson's sentence, like Harris's
sentence, was vacated by the circuit court in 2016.
Thereafter, Robinson, like Harris, was no longer serving a
sentence to which parole eligibility could attach.
Accordingly, the parole-eligibility provision of the FSMA did
not apply to Robinson at the time of his July 24, 2017
on our decision in Harris, we hold that the circuit
court erred in applying the FSMA to Robinson's
case. Robinson is entitled to a hearing to
present Miller evidence for consideration and
sentencing within the discretionary range for a Class Y
felony, which is ten to forty years or life. See
Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-401(a) (Repl. 2013);
Harris, 2018 Ark. 179, 547 S.W.3d 64;
Jackson, 2013 Ark. 175, 426 S.W.3d 906.
Wood, and ...