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State v. Bradley

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 10, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
JAMES J. BRADLEY Appellant

         Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 920, 240 Honorable Bernard Scott Leehy, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT Douglas Lee Harville Counsel for Appellant.

          ROBERT STEPHEN TEW District Attorney GEARY STEPHEN AYCOCK Assistant District Attorney Counsel for Appellee.

          Before WILLIAMS, COX, and GASKINS (Pro Tempore), JJ.

          COX, J.

         This criminal appeal arises from the Fourth Judicial District Court, Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. In 1993, the defendant, James J. Bradley, pled guilty to second degree murder, in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1. He was sentenced to the statutorily mandated sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. The trial court vacated Bradley's original sentence and resentenced him to life imprisonment with the benefit of parole. Bradley filed a motion to reconsider, which was denied. Bradley now appeals his sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm Bradley's sentence.

         FACTS

         On January 14, 1992, James Fulmer was shot and killed while sitting at his dining room table. Bradley, who was 16 years old at the time, was charged with Fulmer's murder. Bradley pled guilty to the second degree murder of Fulmer. He was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.

         On June 19, 2013, Bradley filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. Bradley argued that his mandatory life without parole sentence was illegal under Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), because he was a juvenile at the time he committed the crime. Bradley argued he should be resentenced to the lesser responsive verdict of manslaughter in accordance with State v. Craig, 340 So.2d 191 (La. 1976).

         The state responded by stating the time period for filing an application for post-conviction relief had lapsed and that Miller, supra, was not retroactive. On July 15, 2013, the trial court issued an order staying the motion pending "significant litigation" relevant to the motion. On February 24, 2016, Bradley filed a pro se motion seeking the appointment of counsel to represent him in the resentencing hearing, which was granted. On May 25, 2016, the trial court orally rejected Bradley's pro se motion for resentencing to the extent he sought to be resentenced to the lesser responsive verdict of manslaughter.

         On July 27, 2016, Bradley filed a pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence, setting out the same arguments found in his earlier motion, and requested an order setting a date for the resentencing hearing. In a hearing held on August 1, 2016, the trial court denied Bradley's motion to the extent he sought resentencing to the lesser responsive verdict of manslaughter. The trial court held that its only consideration in resentencing Bradley was his parole eligibility. The trial court set a hearing date to allow the prosecution and defense to present aggravating and mitigating factors.

         On December 19, 2016, the trial court conducted the resentencing hearing. The trial court heard the state's evidence regarding aggravating factors and reviewed a presentencing investigation report. Bradley's sentence was vacated by the court. The trial court stated it would consider the state's evidence and, if it found the state had sustained its burden to prove that Bradley was "the worst of the worst, " it would give Bradley the opportunity to submit mitigating evidence at a later date.

         On February 16, 2017, the trial court orally resentenced Bradley to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. The trial court stated it was preparing written reasons for the ruling. Bradley objected to the ruling and provided notice of his intent to appeal the sentence.

         On February 21, 2017, Bradley filed a pro se "Motion to Clarify Sentence Nunc Pro Tunc, " which was denied on March 1, 2017. On March 1, 2017, Bradley filed a pro se "Motion to Reconsideration of Sentence Pursuant to LSA-C.Cr.P. R.S. 15:574.4(B) Nunc Pro Tunc, " and a pro se "Motion to Vacate An Illegal Sentence Pursuant to Art. 872, ...


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