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State v. Brooks

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

April 11, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
CARLTON BROOKS Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 225, 723 Honorable Brady D. O'Callaghan, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Edward K. Bauman Counsel for Appellant

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney Counsel for Appellee

          MONIQUE Y. METOYER REBECCA A. EDWARDS Assistant District Attorneys

          Before STONE, COX, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          McCALLUM, J.

         Carlton Brooks committed two counts of second degree murder when he was 17 years old. In 2002, he was indicted by a grand jury. He was subsequently convicted on two counts of second degree murder, and on June 27, 2006, was given two concurrent life sentences, without possibility of parole. His convictions and sentences were affirmed. State v. Brooks, 42, 226 (La.App. 2 Cir. 8/15/2007), 962 So.2d 1220. On May 31, 2017, the trial court amended Brooks' sentences to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, pursuant to the newly announced constitutional prohibition on mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without parole for juvenile murderers, Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012).[1]

         Brooks appeals and urges four assignments of error: (1) the trial court exceeded its authority in adding parole eligibility to Brooks' sentence, which renders the sentence illegal and violates due process and Louisiana's constitutional separation of powers; (2) even with parole eligibility, Brooks' sentence still does not afford him a "meaningful opportunity for release, " as required by Miller; (3) Brooks should have been given an evidentiary hearing at which he could present evidence showing his entitlement to a downward departure from the mandatory life sentence; and (4) the trial court failed to specify when Brooks will become eligible for parole consideration. For the reasons stated, we affirm Brooks' amended sentence.

          DISCUSSION

         We begin by outlining the development of the law involved in this case, and we place the trial court's ruling in that chronology. At the time Brooks committed the second degree murders, La. R.S. 14:30.1 provided a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor without parole. In 2012, Miller, supra, changed the law by holding that the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment disallows the imposition of a mandatory life sentence - without possibility of parole - on a person who commits murder prior to reaching the age of 18 years.

         In 2013, the Louisiana legislature amended La. R.S. 15:574.4 and La.C.Cr.P. art. 878.1 in order to satisfy the requirements of Miller. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court, in State v. Tate, 2012-2763 (La. 11/5/13), 130 So.3d 829, held that these provisions were prospective only, and that Miller itself is prospective only. In Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. 136 S.Ct. 718, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 (2016), the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Tate, holding that Miller applies retroactively.

         On remand in Montgomery, in 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that the courts of this state are to implement Miller and Montgomery, i.e., provide those who were under 18 at the time they committed murder with the opportunity to obtain parole eligibility via contradictory hearing. The court so held despite the absence of legislative authority for implementing Miller retroactively, stating:

Therefore, in the absence of further legislative action, the previously enacted provisions [i.e., the 2013 amendments which were held in Tate to be prospective only], should be used for the resentencing hearings that must now be conducted on remand from the United States Supreme Court to determine whether Henry Montgomery, ...

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