Saturday, March 15, 2014
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals this week held that Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012), applies retroactively. In Miller, the Supreme Court held mandatory life without the possibility of parole sentences are unconstitutional for offenders that committed their crime while under 18 years of age. The Texas case is Ex Parte Maxwell, No. WR-76,964 (Tex. Crim. App., March 12, 2014).
A jury found Maxwell guilty of capital murder arising out of a 2007 murder/robbery. The State did not seek the death penalty so under Texas law the sentence automatically became life without possibility of parole after the jury returned the guilty verdict. Maxwell was 17 when the crime occurred.
The court decided the case 5-4 and generated short two dissents (see here and here). This Texas case joins the deepening split among the several states and federal circuits regarding Miller's retroactivity. We can expect more appeals courts to weigh in on the question until the Supreme Court ultimately grants cert and resolves the matter once and for all.