United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. FLEISSIG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the petition of Missouri state
prisoner Bryan Seddens, who is represented by counsel, for a
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For
the reasons set forth below, the matter will be stayed to
allow Petitioner to exhaust all available state court
24, 1991, Petitioner was sentenced to a term of life
imprisonment without eligibility for parole for first degree
murder. He was also sentenced to a 50-year term for each of
two counts of armed criminal action, and a 10-year term for
first degree assault, all to run consecutively. Petitioner
was a juvenile at the time he committed the offenses.
April 11, 2014, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus with the Missouri Supreme Court, arguing that
his sentence was unconstitutional under Miller v.
Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012) (holding that the Eighth
Amendment prohibits mandatory sentences of life without
parole for juvenile offenders). On January 25, 2016, while
Petitioner's state court habeas petition was pending, the
United States Supreme Court held that Miller
announced a new substantive constitutional rule that applied
retroactively to cases on collateral review. Montgomery
v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718, 736 (2016).
March 15, 2016, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an order
that applied to Petitioner's case and other similarly
situated cases (“March 15 order”). The March 15
order stated that the Missouri General Assembly had yet to
enact a constitutionally valid sentencing provision in
accordance with Miller and Montgomery.
Thus, the Missouri Supreme Court held that Petitioner 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 legislation.
this ruling, Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration or
for resentencing in state court. Then, on April 1, 2016,
Petitioner filed this federal habeas petition, arguing that
his sentence continued to suffer from constitutional defects.
19, 2016, the Missouri Supreme Court entered an order
(“July 19 order”) vacating its March 15 order,
overruling as moot the motions for reconsideration filed by
Petitioner and others, and denying Petitioner's and
others' state court petitions for habeas corpus, all in
light of the enactment of Missouri Senate Bill No. 590
(“S.B. 590”). S.B. 590, signed into law on July
13, 2016, and codified at Mo. Rev. Stat. § 558.047,
eliminates mandatory life sentences for juveniles and
provides juveniles serving mandatory life without parole
sentences an opportunity to petition the parole board for a
sentencing review after serving 25 years' imprisonment.
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 558.047.
24, 2017, with the assistance of appointed counsel,
Petitioner amended his federal habeas petition to address the
July 19 order. In his amended petition, Petitioner asserts
that (1) the July 19 order is unconstitutional as it
contemplates an illusory and arbitrary remedy that violates
the Eighth Amendment, due process, equal protection, and
settled separation of powers principles; (2) through the July
19 order, the Missouri Supreme Court and S.B. 590 have
thwarted Petitioner's constitutional right to a
meaningful opportunity for release; and (3) the July 19 order
and S.B. 590 are unconstitutional as they deny Petitioner a
meaningful sentencing process, jury determination at
sentencing, equal protection, and the right to counsel.
argues that Petitioner's claims that S.B. 590 is
unconstitutional or otherwise inadequate are not properly
before the Court because they have not been exhausted in
state court, in that Petitioner has neither petitioned for
parole under S.B. 590 nor challenged S.B. 590 in state court.
Respondent further argues that the Missouri Supreme Court did
not violate Miller when it denied Petitioner's
state habeas petition in light of S.B. 590 because Petitioner
now has an avenue for recovery that comports with
Miller and the factors that must be taken into
consideration for sentencing juveniles for homicide offenses.
Further, Respondent maintains that Petitioner's claims
seek an expansion of existing United States Supreme Court
precedent, and that the July 19 order was not an unreasonable
interpretation or application of that precedent.
Court may not grant habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254
unless the petitioner has “exhausted the remedies
available in the courts of the State, ” “there is
an absence of available State corrective process, ” or
“circumstances exist that render such process
ineffective to protect the rights of the applicant.”
§ 2254(b)(1). The petitioner “has the burden to
show that all available state remedies had been exhausted or
that exceptional circumstances existed.” Carmichael
v. White, 163 F.3d 1044, 1045 (8th Cir. 1998).
the Court concludes that Petitioner has not met his burden.
Like in Williams v. Precythe, the Court finds that
Petitioner's claims “have been changed or broadened
by the enactment of S.B. 590, and he has not met his burden
to demonstrate that he has exhausted his claims or that
exceptional circumstances exist that render the state habeas
process ineffective.” No. 4:16 CV 393 RWS, 2019 WL
1380042, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 27, 2019); see also Davis
v. Griffith, No. 4:16-CV-377 CAS, 2017 WL 5518022, at *3
(E.D. Mo. Nov. 17, 2017) (holding that “none of
petitioner's claims contained in the First Amended
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus are exhausted because the
enactment of Senate Bill 590 broadens petitioner's claims
under Miller and Montgomery such that they
have not been properly raised before the state
courts”). In short, Petitioner's federal habeas
claims were never presented to a state court for
adjudication. Moreover, a possible state court remedy has not
yet been foreclosed, as Petitioner could raise these
broadened claims by filing a petition under Missouri Supreme
Court Rule 91. See Davis, 2017 WL 5518022, at *3
(detailing the potential availability of further state court
proceedings in this context).
addition, Petitioner's claims related to the parole board
are based on a future application of S.B. 590 by the parole
board, which has not yet occurred. See McCombs v.
Lewis, No. 4:16 CV 356 CDP, 2019 WL 1275066, at *4 (E.D.
Mo. Mar. 20, 2019). Thus, Petitioner's challenges to the
constitutionality of his future parole hearing and how his
consecutive sentences will be resolved by the parole board
are premature and not ...