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State v. Thomas

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

February 7, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
RODERICK THOMAS

         APPEAL FROM THE NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF RAPIDES, NO. 130-664 HONORABLE MONIQUE FREEMAN RAULS, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Chad M. Ikerd COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT

          Honorable Phillip Terrell, Jr. COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE

          Colin Clark COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Shannon J. Gremillion, and John E. Conery, Judges.

          SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE

         In 1974, Defendant, Roderick Thomas, entered a plea of guilty to second degree murder, a violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1. Defendant waived sentencing delays, and the trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence for the first twenty years. Defendant was seventeen years old when he was sentenced. Subsequently, the legislature amended La.R.S. 14:30.1 to eliminate parole eligibility.

         In March 2016, Defendant filed a motion to reconsider sentence based upon the ruling in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), which held that the Constitution bars sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders. In March 2017, the trial court heard the motion and modified Defendant's life sentence to include the possibility of parole.

         Defendant now appeals, assigning two errors. For the following reasons, Defendant's sentence is affirmed.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NUMBER ONE

         In his first assignment of error, Defendant argues the district court erred by amending his sentence to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, contending that said penalty was not authorized by the legislature and thus was not a legal sentence. He argues that Louisiana "[c]ourts do not have authority to declare 'ranges' of sentences for crimes under the Louisiana Constitution." While he acknowledges that the district court acted in accordance with the holding in State v. Montgomery, 13-1163 (La. 6/28/16), 194 So.3d 606, he characterizes the Montgomery ruling as unconstitutional based on his premise regarding courts' authority or lack thereof. He reasons that his sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole was improper because at the time of sentencing, the legislature had not authorized such a sentence.

          The legislature has recently clarified that certain juvenile homicide offenders sentenced to life imprisonment shall be eligible for parole. Significantly, La.Code Crim.P. art. 878.1 was amended by 2017 La. Acts No. 277, § 2, and now provides in pertinent part:

B
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