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State v. Plater

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 17, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
WILLIE C. PLATER Appellant

         Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 161651 Honorable Brady D. O'Callaghan, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Peggy J. Sullivan Counsel for Appellant.

          WILLIE C. PLATER Pro Se.

          JEFFREY M. LANDRY Attorney General COLIN CLARK Deputy Solicitor General JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney TOMMY J. JOHNSON LAURA O. FULCO Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee.

          Before BROWN, DREW, and MOORE, JJ.

          BROWN, C.J.

         On September 20, 1992, Steven Potter sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the back of his head as he unloaded trash from his vehicle parked near a dumpster. Potter's vehicle was stolen. Willie Plater, along with two other individuals, was arrested. Although Plater was indicted on a charge of first degree murder, a unanimous jury ultimately convicted him of second degree murder. Plater, who was 17 years old when the crime was committed, received the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor to be served without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Plater appealed. This Court affirmed Plater's conviction and sentence. State v. Plater, 26, 252 (La.App. 2 Cir. 09/21/94), 643 So.2d 313, writ denied, 94-2608 (La. 02/03/95), 649 So.2d 402.

         In Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), the United States Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders. The Miller court did not establish a categorical prohibition against life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders; instead, the case required the sentencing court to consider certain factors, including the offender's youth, before deciding whether to impose life with or without parole.

         In 2016, the United States Supreme Court, in Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 718, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 (2016), held that Miller applied retroactively. On April 29, 2016, Plater filed a motion and memorandum in support of his resentencing pursuant to La.C.Cr.P. art. 882.

         The resentencing hearing was held on June 20, 2016. The state waived its right to present evidence that Plater is irreparably corrupt, and defense counsel did not present any evidence. The trial court vacated Plater's original sentence and resentenced him to life imprisonment with the benefit of parole eligibility under La. R.S. 15:574.4(E).

         Defense counsel filed a motion to reconsider sentence, arguing that if Plater would have had the opportunity to present evidence at the hearing, he would have been resentenced to manslaughter. Plater also filed a pro se motion to reconsider sentence.[1] The trial court denied both motions. This appeal followed.

         DISCUSSION

         The defense argues that because the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the benefit of parole for second degree murder is unconstitutional, Plater should have been resentenced to the next lesser included offense of manslaughter in effect at the time of the commission of the offense, citing State v. Craig, 340 So.2d 191 (La. 1976). The maximum sentence for a manslaughter conviction in 1992 was 21 years. In the alternative, the defense contends that the trial court should have reviewed Plater's record and used its authority to deviate downward from the mandatory minimum sentence to impose a sentence that was not constitutionally excessive.

         In response to Miller, the Louisiana legislature enacted La.C.Cr.P. art. 878.1 and La. R.S. 15:574.4(E), ...


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