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Vincent v. Cassady

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

February 28, 2019

MICHAEL VINCENT, Petitioner,
v.
JAY CASSADY, et al., Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          E. RICHARD WEBBER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Michael Vincent's Amended Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody [1].

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner Michael Vincent (“Petitioner”) was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court of the City of Saint Louis, Missouri, of murder in the first-degree and armed criminal action. On August 3, 1990, the Circuit Court sentenced fifteen-year old Petitioner to life without parole for the murder in the first-degree conviction, and 99 years imprisonment for the armed criminal action conviction, to be served concurrently. Petitioner appealed to the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of Missouri, and his convictions were affirmed. Review of the appeal was denied by the Missouri Supreme Court.

         On June 25, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012). In Miller, the Supreme Court held the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders. Id. at 479. On January 27, 2016, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016), holding the rule of Miller must be retroactively applied to persons sentenced to mandatory life without parole for juvenile sentences before Miller was decided. Id. at 732.

         On June 23, 2013, Petitioner filed a petition in the Missouri Supreme Court alleging that his sentence was unconstitutional in light of Miller. On March 15, 2016, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an order in Petitioner's case, as well as all other similarly situated cases, stating:

NOW, THEREFORE, this Court, in order to comply with the constitutional requirements of Miller and Montgomery, hereby orders that this petition be sustained in part. This petitioner shall be eligible to apply for parole after serving 25 years' imprisonment on his sentence of life without parole unless his sentence is otherwise brought into conformity with Miller and Montgomery by action of the governor or enactment of necessary legislation. All other claims alleged in the petition and pending motions are denied without prejudice.

         Petitioner filed the pending Motion to Vacate in this Court on March 17, 2016. On July 13, 2016, the Governor signed into law Missouri Senate Bill No. 590 (“S.B. 590”), 98th General Assembly, which states, in relevant part:

1. (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, . . . after serving twenty-five years of incarceration.
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4. The parole board shall hold a hearing and determine if the defendant shall be granted parole.
(codified at Mo. Rev. Stat. § 558.047).

         On July 19, 2016, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an order, in light of S.B. 590, vacating its March 15, 2016 order granting Petitioner parole eligibility, overruling Petitioner's Motion for Rehearing as moot, and denying Petitioner's state court petition. This Court issued a show cause order in this action directing the Parties to submit briefs to the Court addressing whether the passage of S.B. 590 rendered the current action moot.

         The State of Missouri responded stating Petitioner's claims are moot because he is challenging the March 15, 2016, order by the Missouri Supreme Court, which was vacated on July 19, 2016. The State also argues his injury of serving life without the possibility of parole is no longer debatable because of Missouri Senate Bill 590. Petitioner argues the passage of Senate Bill 590 requires the Court to dismiss this Petition due to lack of exhaustion. Petitioner further asserts his sentence remains illegal because it violates the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and ...


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