United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Missouri state prisoner Donald
Steward's petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2254. Because all of the claims raised by
Steward are unexhausted, I will dismiss the petition.
1988, Steward was sentenced in the Circuit Court of St. Louis
City, Missouri, to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment
without eligibility for parole on two counts of murder first
degree, and to a consecutive term of fifteen years'
imprisonment on one count of burglary first degree. Steward
was a juvenile at the time he committed the offenses. His
conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal,
State v. Steward, 776 S.W.2d 854 (Mo.Ct.App. 1989);
and he was unsuccessful in his bid for post-conviction relief
under Missouri Supreme Court Rule 29.15. Steward v.
State, 784 S.W.2d 853 (Mo.Ct.App. 1990).
25, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion
in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), in which
it held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits mandatory
sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders. The
Court reasoned that “[m]andatory life without parole
for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological
age and its hallmark features - among them, immaturity,
impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and
consequences, ” the “family and home environment
that surrounds him - and from which he cannot usually
extricate himself - no matter how brutal or dysfunctional,
” the “circumstances of the homicide offense,
” and “the possibility of
rehabilitation[.]” Id. at 477-78. Based on
Miller, Steward filed a petition for writ of habeas
corpus in the Missouri Supreme Court in June 2013, arguing
that he was entitled to be resentenced given the
unconstitutionality of his original sentence.
January 27, 2016, while Steward's petition was still
pending, the United States Supreme Court decided
Montgomery v. Louisiana, which held that
Miller announced a new substantive constitutional
rule that applied retroactively to cases on collateral
review. 136 S.Ct. 718, 736 (2016). The Court clarified,
however, that this retroactive application “does not
require States to relitigate sentences, let alone
convictions, in every case where a juvenile offender received
mandatory life without parole. A State may remedy a
Miller violation by permitting juvenile homicide
offenders to be considered for parole, rather than by
resentencing them.” Id. Regarding this remedy,
the Court cited a Wyoming statute that allows a juvenile
convicted of homicide to be eligible for parole after 25
years of incarceration. Id. (citing Wyo. Stat. Ann.
§ 6-10-301(c) (2013)). The Court specifically held that
“[a]llowing those offenders to be considered for parole
ensures that juveniles whose crimes reflected only transient
immaturity - and who have since matured - will not be forced
to serve a disproportionate sentence in violation of the
Eighth Amendment.” Id.
March 15, 2016, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an order in
Steward's habeas case and in all other similarly situated
cases, stating that the Missouri General Assembly had yet to
enact a constitutionally valid sentencing provision in
accordance with Miller and Montgomery.
Therefore, the Missouri Supreme Court granted Steward's
petition in part and ordered that he (and those similarly
situated) would be eligible to apply for parole after 25
years' imprisonment on their sentences of life without
parole unless their sentences were otherwise brought into
conformity with Miller and Montgomery by
the action of the governor or enactment of necessary
filed this federal habeas petition in this Court on March 24,
2016, arguing that the Missouri Supreme Court's March 15
order violated his constitutional rights because it: 1)
illegally altered his sentence and upheld his conviction for
first degree murder; and 2) denied him the right to a
reasonable opportunity for release. Steward also raised a
speculative claim that if he was required to serve his
consecutive sentences before being considered for parole,
such requirement would violate his Eighth Amendment right to
be free from cruel and unusual punishment. (ECF #1.) Steward
amended his petition on March 30, 2016, to raise additional
claims, and specifically, that the Missouri Supreme Court: 1)
lacked authority to rewrite sentencing provisions that had
been promulgated by the legislature; 2) failed to
meaningfully effectuate Miller's sentencing
mandates; and 3) violated his rights to equal protection and
to counsel, and committed other sentencing law violations.
13, 2016, the governor signed into law Missouri Senate Bill
No. 590 (SB 590), 98th General Assembly, which states, in
1. Any person sentenced to a term of imprisonment for life
without eligibility for parole before August 28, 2016, who
was under eighteen years of age at the time of the commission
of the offense or offenses, may submit to the parole board a
petition for a review of his or her sentence regardless of
whether the case is final for purposes of appeal, after
serving twenty-five years of incarceration.
4. The parole board shall hold a hearing and determine if the
defendant shall be granted parole.
Codified at Mo. Rev. Stat. § 558.047. In light
of SB 590, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an order on July
19, 2016, vacating its March 15 order, overruling as moot the
motions for rehearing or resentencing filed by Steward and
others, and denying Steward's and others' state-court
petitions for habeas corpus.
this development, Steward filed a second amended petition for
writ of habeas corpus in this Court (ECF #16), raising the
following grounds for relief:
(1) That he was denied due process of law when the Missouri
Supreme Court denied his request for habeas corpus relief
because SB 590 does not give him a “meaningful
opportunity to obtain release based on ...