FROM THE COLUMBIA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 14CR-95-168]
HONORABLE DAVID W. TALLEY, JR., JUDGE
M. Pratt, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Rebecca Kane, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
COURTNEY HUDSON GOODSON, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Steven Wade Miller appeals from the Columbia County Circuit
Court's order denying him a resentencing hearing and
imposing a life sentence with parole eligibility pursuant to
the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act of 2017 (FSMA). For
reversal, Miller argues that the circuit court erred by
sentencing him under the FSMA. We agree and reverse and
remand for resentencing in accordance with our decision in
Harris v. State, 2018 Ark. 179, 547 S.W.3d 64.
January 19, 1996, Miller was convicted of capital murder in
connection with the March 5, 1994 shooting death of Leona
Cameron, a clerk at the Subway Sandwich Shop in El Dorado,
Arkansas. Miller was sixteen years old at the time of the
crime and received a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment
without parole. See Ark. Code Ann. §
5-10-101(c) (Repl. 1993); Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-104(b)
(Repl. 1993). His conviction and sentence were affirmed on
appeal. Miller v. State, 328 Ark. 121, 942 S.W.2d
Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), the Supreme
Court held that the Eighth Amendment forbids a mandatory
sentence of life without parole for a juvenile offender and
that a juvenile facing a life-without-parole sentence is
entitled to a sentencing hearing at which a judge or jury may
consider the individual characteristics of the defendant and
the circumstances of the crime. In Jackson v.
Norris, 2013 Ark. 175, 426 S.W.3d 906, this court
decided a companion case to Miller on remand from
the Supreme Court. We granted habeas relief and remanded to
the circuit court for a sentencing hearing where Jackson
could present Miller evidence for consideration.
Id. We further held that Jackson's sentence must
fall within the statutory discretionary sentencing range for
a Class Y felony, which is ten to forty years or life.
Id. Subsequent to Jackson, we held in
Kelley v. Gordon, 2015 Ark. 277, 465 S.W.3d 842,
that Miller was to be applied retroactively to other
cases on collateral review.
on the decisions outlined above, Miller filed a petition for
writ of habeas corpus in the Jefferson County Circuit Court.
On June 9, 2016, the circuit court entered an order
concluding that Miller was entitled to habeas relief. The
court issued the writ, vacated Miller's
life-without-parole sentence, and remanded his case to the
Columbia County Circuit Court for resentencing. Before
Miller's resentencing hearing was held, however, the
Arkansas General Assembly passed the FSMA, which became
effective on March 20, 2017. The FSMA eliminated life without
parole as a sentencing option for juvenile offenders and also
extended parole eligibility to juvenile offenders.
September 21, 2017, Miller filed a motion to determine the
appropriate procedure and sentencing range applicable to his
resentencing. At the hearing on the motion, Miller argued
that he could not be resentenced under the FSMA. The circuit
court disagreed, finding that the FSMA could be applied
retroactively to Miller, and sentenced him to life
imprisonment with the possibility of parole after thirty
years. An order to this effect, along with an amended
sentencing order, was entered on October 31, 2017. Miller
filed a timely notice of appeal from these orders.
appeal, Miller contends that the circuit court erred by
retroactively applying the FSMA's penalty provisions and
by sentencing him to a term not available on the date the
crime was committed. He cites this court's recent
opinion, Harris v. State, supra, in which
we held that the FSMA was not applicable to a
similarly-situated juvenile offender.
agree that our decision in Harris controls in this
appeal. In Harris, this court concluded that the
revised punishment provided under the FSMA for capital murder
committed by a juvenile, which is life imprisonment with the
possibility of parole after serving a minimum of thirty
years' imprisonment, is not retroactive and applies only
to crimes committed on or after March 20, 2017, the effective
date of the Act. Id. at 11-13, 547 S.W.3d at 70-71
(citing Fair Sentencing of Minors Act §§ 3, 6, Ark.
Code Ann. §§ 5-4-104(b), 5-10-101(c)(1)(B) (Supp.
2017)). Furthermore, we concluded that the FSMA's
parole-eligibility provisions did not apply to Harris at the
time of his resentencing hearing because his sentence had
been vacated, and he was no longer serving a sentence to
which parole eligibility could attach. Id. We
therefore held that Harris was in the same situation as the
defendant in Jackson and that he was entitled to a
hearing to present Miller evidence and sentencing
within the discretionary range for a Class Y felony, which is
ten to forty years or life. Id.
State asserts that Harris incorrectly interpreted
the FSMA and should be overruled. Consistent with other
recent decisions by this court that also involved juvenile
offenders whose life-without-parole sentences for capital
murder were vacated, we again decline this invitation.
Ray v. State, 2019 Ark. 46, S.W.3d; Segerstrom
v. State, 2019 Ark. 36, 566 S.W.3d 466; Robinson v.
State, 2018 Ark. 353, 563 S.W.3d 530. Because Miller,
like Harris, committed his crime before the effective date of
the FSMA, the penalty provisions of the Act do not apply to
him. Further, because Miller's sentence had been vacated
by Jefferson County Circuit Court, he was no longer serving a
sentence to which parole eligibility could attach. Thus, the
parole-eligibility provision of the FSMA did not apply to
Miller at the time of his resentencing hearing in September
2017. Accordingly, the circuit court erred by sentencing
Miller under the FSMA. We reverse and remand for a
resentencing hearing; at the hearing, Miller will be entitled
to present Miller evidence for consideration, and he
will be sentenced pursuant to the discretionary sentencing
range for a Class Y felony, which is ten to forty years or
Special Justice Stephen Tabor ...