STATE v. MELVIN DELGADO, SC 19663
Judicial District of Hartford
Criminal; Sentencing of Juvenile Offenders; Whether Availability of Consideration for Parole Moots Claim that Juvenile Offender Should be Resentenced Where Sentencing Court did not Consider Mitigating Factor of Youth. In 1999, the defendant was sentenced to sixty-five years of incarceration, without eligibility for parole, after being convicted as an accessory to a murder that occurred when he was sixteen years old. He brought this action by a motion to correct an illegal sentence, claiming that his sentence was unconstitutional under Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012). Miller held that mandatory sentences of life without parole imposed on those who were under the age of eighteen at the time of their crime violate the eighth amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments because they preclude any consideration of a juvenile offender’s youth and its “hallmark features,” including immaturity and a failure to appreciate risks and consequences. The defendant argued that the court that sentenced him did not consider his youth as a mitigating factor before imposing the functional equivalent of a life sentence without parole. This is the defendant’s appeal from a trial court judgment dismissing his motion to correct an illegal sentence for lack of jurisdiction. He claims that the trial court wrongly determined that it lacked jurisdiction to correct a sentence that was imposed in an illegal manner under Miller. The state argues that the defendant’s claim that he should be resentenced as the remedy for a Miller violation is now moot. The state points out that, after this appeal was filed, General Statutes § 54-125a was amended to provide for parole eligibility for any juvenile offender sentenced to ten or more years of incarceration. The state also notes that, in Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), the United States Supreme Court posited that a state can remedy Miller violations by permitting juvenile offenders sentenced to life without parole to be considered for parole, rather than by resentencing them. The state argues that, as § 54-125a now allows Connecticut juvenile offenders like the defendant who were sentenced to ten years or more to be considered for parole, the proper and only remedy for any Miller violation here is not resentencing but rather parole proceedings where the defendant will have the opportunity to demonstrate that his crime was the result of “transient immaturity” and that he has matured since committing the crime. The defendant contends that a parole hearing cannot cure the constitutional defects of a sentence that was imposed in violation of Miller, that Montgomery’s suggestion that it can is nonbinding dicta, and that the Connecticut Supreme Court is instead bound by its own precedent establishing that a new sentencing hearing is the proper remedy for a Miller violation.