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Petition of State

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

August 29, 2014

Petition of State of New Hampshire
v.
Alabama Retroactive Application of Miller

Argued June 18, 2014.

Petition for certiorari filed at, 11/26/2014

Page 228

Original.

Christopher M. Johnson, chief appellate defender, of Concord, on the joint brief and orally, for respondents Robert Dingman and Eduardo Lopez, Jr.

Lothstein Guerriero, of Keene ( Richard Guerriero on the joint brief), and Christopher M. Johnson, chief appellate defender, of Concord, orally, for respondent Robert Tulloch.

Getman, Schulthess & Steere, of Manchester ( Andrew Schulman and Clara Lyons on the joint brief), and Christopher M. Johnson, chief appellate defender, of Concord, orally, for respondent Michael Soto.

Joseph A. Foster, attorney general ( Elizabeth C. Woodcock, assistant attorney general, on the brief and orally), for the State.

Juvenile Law Center, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ( Marsha L. Levick on the brief), and Cohen & Winters, PLLC, of Concord ( Andrew S. Winters on the brief), for the Juvenile Law Center, as amicus curiae.

New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, of Concord ( Gilles R. Bissonnette on the brief), New Hampshire Legal Assistance, of Portsmouth ( Michelle Wangerin on the brief), Disabilities Rights Center, Inc., of Concord ( Amy B. Messer and Aaron Ginsberg on the brief), and New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, of Manchester ( Katherine Cooper on the brief), for The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, New Hampshire Legal Assistance, Disabilities Rights Center, Inc., The New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Child and Family Services of New Hampshire, New Hampshire Kids Count, The National Association of Social Workers and its New Hampshire chapters, [166 N.H. 662] and four professors from the University of New Hampshire School of Law (in their individual capacities only), as amici curiae.

Conboy, J. Dalianis, C.J., and Hicks, Lynn, and Bassett, JJ., concurred.

OPINION

Page 229

Conboy, J.

In this Rule 11 petition, see S.Ct. R. 11, the State appeals the determination of the Superior Court (Smukler, J.) that the rule announced in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), precluding the imposition of mandatory life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentences on juvenile offenders under the age of eighteen at the time of their crimes, applies retroactively to the respondents (petitioners in the trial court), Robert Dingman, Eduardo Lopez, Jr., Michael Soto, and Robert Tulloch, on collateral review. We affirm.

I. Background

The respondents were convicted of first degree murder for offenses committed when they were seventeen years old. Accordingly, they each received a statutorily-mandated sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. See RSA 630:1-a, III (2007).

On June 25, 2012, after all of the respondents' convictions had become final, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Miller, holding " that the

Page 230

Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders." Miller, 132 S.Ct. at 2469. The Court stated that, when sentencing juvenile offenders convicted of homicide, sentencers must " take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison." Id.

As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, the respondents each sought post-conviction relief in the superior court, arguing that the rule announced in Miller applied retroactively and that, consistent with Miller, the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and Part I, Articles 18 and 33 of the New Hampshire Constitution, they are each entitled to a new sentencing hearing. The cases were consolidated to address the threshold question of whether Miller applies retroactively. After hearing arguments, the trial court ruled that Miller applies retroactively so as to ...


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