If you face habeas corpus in Connecticut, one case to familiarize yourself with is the Miller-Graham case. Learn more about this case and others here.
In Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 82 (2010), the Supreme Court held certain things. They claim that life-without-parole sentences imposed on juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses violate the Eighth Amendment. The violate this amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. They also claim that such violation gets corrected only by providing the defendant with opportunity to obtain release from prison. This opportunity for release comes from demonstrated personal reform. In Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. , 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), the Supreme Court concluded that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles convicted of homicide offenses likewise violate the Eighth Amendment. Also, such violation is remedied only by affording the defendant an individualized sentencing. In sentencing, his or her youthfulness as a mitigating factor is considered before the sentence is fixed.
In Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. , No. 14-280 (Jan. 27, 2016), the Supreme Court held that Miller’s prohibition on mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile homicide offenders announced a new rule. This rule, under the United States Constitution, is retroactive. Earlier, in Casiano v. Commissioner, 317 Conn. 52 (2015), the Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that Miller is retroactive. The Court further concluded that Miller embraces non-mandatory sentences that are the functional equivalent of a life sentence, including the fifty-year sentence under review in that case.
Going forward, trial counsel’s failure at sentencing to argue a juvenile’s character, background and history in mitigation of the punishment will constitute deficient performance under Strickland. As such, the habeas petition should allege counsel’s missteps as a breach of both the federal and state constitutional guarantee of effective assistance of counsel and the federal and state constitutional guarantee to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.
With regard to the sentences imposed on juveniles before Miller-Graham, habeas counsel must consider whether the habeas court is the proper court in which to raise the claim initially or at all. It appears that the proper court to seek sentence relief under Miller-Graham, at least initially, is the trial court pursuant to Practice Book § 43-22 Correction of Illegal Sentence. See Cobham v. Commissioner, 258 Conn. 30, 38 (2001)(“[B]efore seeking to correct an illegal sentence in the habeas court, a defendant either must raise the issue on direct appeal or file a motion pursuant to § 43 -22 with the trial court”); see also State v. McNellis, 15 Conn. App. 416, 444 (discussing when a motion under § 43- 22 is proper), cert. denied 209 Conn. 809 (1988).
Seeking relief in the habeas court without first seeking relief in the trial court may expose the petition to the defense of procedural default and may subsequently give rise to an allegation of ineffective assistance of habeas counsel.
If you need help with a habeas corpus petition, discuss your situation with an attorney.