STATE ex rel. JASON CLAY CARR, Petitioner,
IAN WALLACE, SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.
PROCEEDING IN HABEAS CORPUS
PATRICIA BRECKENRIDGE, JUDGE
1983, Jason Carr was convicted of three counts of capital
murder for killing his brother, stepmother, and stepsister
when he was 16 years old. He was sentenced to three
concurrent terms of life in prison without the possibility of
parole for 50 years. His sentences were imposed without any
consideration of his youth. Mr. Carr filed a petition for a
writ of habeas corpus in this Court. He contends his
sentences violate the Eighth Amendment because, following the
decision in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455
(2012), juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life
without parole pursuant to mandatory sentencing schemes that
preclude consideration of the offender's youth and
Carr was sentenced under a mandatory sentencing scheme that
afforded the sentencer no opportunity to consider his age,
maturity, limited control over his environment, the transient
characteristics attendant to youth, or his capacity for
rehabilitation. As a result, Mr. Carr's sentences were
imposed in direct contravention of the foundational principle
that imposition of a state's most severe penalties on
juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not
children. Consequently, Mr. Carr's sentences of life
without the possibility of parole for 50 years violate the
Eighth Amendment. Mr. Carr must be resentenced so his youth
and other attendant circumstances surrounding his offense can
be taken into consideration to ensure he will not be forced
to serve a disproportionate sentence in violation of the
Eighth Amendment. Habeas relief is granted.
and Procedural Background
Carr was born in 1968. His parents
divorced several years later. Immediately following the
divorce, Mr. Carr and his brother lived with their paternal
grandmother, although their mother had legal custody of the
two boys. About a year and a half later, the boys began
living with their mother, who had remarried. Due to ongoing
physical and verbal abuse from their stepfather, the boys
later lived with their biological father.
Carr's father was an alcoholic but had stopped drinking
when Mr. Carr was about five years old and became a devout
member of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation. His
father's religious beliefs seemingly led him to place
strict restrictions on Mr. Carr, which caused conflict. For
example, when he lived with his father, Mr. Carr was not
allowed to play high school basketball because practice
conflicted with the family's home bible study. He was
also not allowed to play video games, watch certain
television shows, or date a girl who did not attend his
father's place of worship. Mr. Carr lived with his father
until he was around 14 years old.
boys moved back in with their mother following her second
divorce. Upon returning to his mother's house, Mr. Carr
attempted to throw away his Jehovah's Witnesses books and
pamphlets. Citing the expense of the materials, his mother
had him store them in a closet. While living with his mother,
he was allowed to join the high school basketball team and
was generally a good student who did not get in serious
trouble. Early in January 1983, when he was around 16 years
old, Mr. Carr received a phone call from his father.
Following the phone call, Mr. Carr became withdrawn. He quit
the basketball team and would not see his friends. He stayed
in his room most of the time, would not talk or eat much, and
began reading the Jehovah's Witnesses materials he had
kept. At Mr. Carr's request, his mother took him to live
with his father, his stepmother, and stepsister in late
in early March 1983, Mr. Carr called his mother. He was upset
and repeatedly told his mother he was "bad" because
he wanted to do things that were against church rules, such
as play basketball, date a girl outside the faith, and drive.
Evidence presented at his trial suggested his father made him
publicly renounce the girl he wanted to date during a worship
service. In addition, his mother testified at trial that Mr.
Carr "kept saying he was trying to do the right thing
but everything he did was bad and he said his dad kept
telling him he was bad." She also testified that he said
that the congregation "kept telling him that he was bad
because he wasn't going by their rules." Based on
Mr. Carr's demeanor during the phone call, his mother
testified she believed he was suffering from an ongoing
mental disease or defect that would not have allowed him to
"calmly and coolly reflect on killing someone."
March 14, 1983, Mr. Carr and his father went to a worship
service. During the service, his father "rebuked and
ridiculed" him for failing to recite a biblical passage.
After the service, Mr. Carr stayed at his grandmother's
house. The following morning, he did not attend high school.
Instead, he returned to his father's house, where he
stayed throughout the day.
approximately 4:15 p.m., his brother and stepsister returned
home from school. When they entered the house, Mr. Carr shot
his brother at close range with a .22 caliber rifle, hitting
him in the left side of the back of his head and in front of
his right ear. He shot his stepsister in her back and in her
left eye. When his stepmother returned home from work at
around 4:35 p.m., he shot her at close range above the right
eye and in the right temple. When Mr. Carr's father
arrived home at approximately 5:10 p.m., Mr. Carr attempted
to shoot his father, but the rifle did not fire. When Mr.
Carr tried to insert another shell into the rifle, his father
took the gun from him, seemingly without resistance. After
being disarmed, Mr. Carr began crying. He told his father he
"kill[ed] them all, " including his brother, even
though he loved him.
time of the offenses, Mr. Carr was 16 years old. He was
originally charged as a juvenile offender and then certified
to be tried as an adult for three counts of capital murder
under section 565.001. At the time,
capital murder could be punished by death or a life sentence
without the possibility of parole for 50 years. Section
565.008.1. The state did not seek the death penalty.
Therefore, if convicted, the only eligible sentence Mr. Carr
could receive was life without the possibility of parole for
December 1983, a jury convicted Mr. Carr of three counts of
capital murder. Following the jury's verdict, the trial
court sentenced him to three concurrent sentences of life
imprisonment without the eligibility for parole for 50 years.
Because the state did not seek the death penalty, the defense
was not required to and did not present any mitigating
evidence prior to sentencing. The trial court's judgment
stated that Mr. Carr would be scheduled for a parole hearing
in March 2031. The court of appeals affirmed his convictions
on direct appeal. Carr, 687 S.W.2d at 613. Mr.
Carr's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel was
also denied. Id. at 611.
Carr filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this
Court after the Supreme Court of the United States'
decision in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455
(2012). In Miller, the Supreme Court held that
juveniles could not be sentenced to a mandatory sentence of
life without the possibility of parole in a homicide case
without first considering whether this punishment was just
and appropriate given the juvenile offender's age,
development, and the circumstances of the offense.
Id. at 2469. Mr. Carr argued his mandatory sentences
of life without the possibility of parole for 50 years
violate the Eighth Amendment because they were imposed on him
for offenses he committed as a juvenile without consideration
of any of the factors in Miller.
Mr. Carr's habeas petition was pending, the Supreme Court
held that Miller's substantive rule must be
applied retroactively on collateral review of a juvenile
offender's mandatory sentence of life without parole.
Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718, 736 (2016).
This Court then set this case for briefing and oral argument.
of Review for Habeas Relief
Court has jurisdiction to "issue and determine original
remedial writs." Mo. Const. art. V., sec. 4.
"Habeas corpus relief is the final judicial inquiry into
the validity of a criminal conviction and functions to
relieve [prisoners] whose convictions violate fundamental
fairness." State ex rel. Clemons v. Larkin, 475
S.W.3d 60, 76 (Mo. banc 2015). A prisoner is entitled to
habeas corpus relief where he proves that he is
"restrained of his . . . liberty in violation of the
constitution or laws of the state or federal
government." Id. Although prisoners are
generally required to raise constitutional claims on direct
appeal or in a post-conviction proceeding, a defendant has
cause for failing to raise ...