United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
RICHARD WEBBER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Petitioner Sterling Burns'
(“Petitioner”) Motion to Alter, Amend, or Vacate
Judgment. ECF No. 17. Respondent has filed a response in
opposition to Petitioner's motion. ECF No. 19.
was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court of the City of
St. Louis to one count of first-degree murder and one count
of armed criminal action. Petitioner was 17 years old at the
time of his sentence of life without the possibility of
parole. On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United
States 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. Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460,
479 (2012). On January 27, 2016, the Supreme Court held the
rule of Miller must be retroactively applied to
persons sentenced to mandatory life without parole for
juvenile sentences before the Miller decision.
Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718, 732 (2016).
filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme
Court of Missouri on June 24, 2013, alleging his sentence was
unconstitutional under Miller. On March 15, 2016,
the Supreme Court of Missouri issued an order in
Petitioner's case and other similar cases finding
Petitioner was eligible to apply for parole after serving 25
years' imprisonment on his life sentence. Petitioner
filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 in federal court the following day.
13, 2016, the Missouri Governor signed into law Missouri
Senate Bill No. 590 (“S.B. 590”), 98th General
Assembly, which states in relevant part:
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. On July
19, 2016, the Supreme Court of Missouri vacated its March 15,
2016 order in light of S.B. 590 and denied Petitioner's
state court petition.
respect to Petitioner' federal petition, Respondent filed
a response to order to show cause on June 13, 2016, and
Petitioner filed a reply on March 13, 2017. Petitioner argued
the July 19, 2016 order by the Supreme Court of Missouri
failed to satisfy the Miller requirement that
juvenile offenders be afforded sentencing which takes into
account their individual circumstances, and Petitioner's
sentence violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on
cruel and unusual punishment. On March 12, 2019, this Court
dismissed without prejudice Petitioner's habeas petition
for failure to exhaust his claims in state court. The Court
reasoned the enactment of S.B. 590 broadened Petitioner's
claims under Miller and Montgomery such
that those claims were not properly raised before the state
MOTION TO ALTER, AMEND OR VACATE JUDGMENT
April 9, 2019, Petitioner filed the present Motion to Alter,
Amend or Vacate the Judgment of March 12, 2019 pursuant to
Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Petitioner argues the Court should correct manifest errors of
law or fact and to prevent the manifest injustice that will
result if Petitioner serves his unconstitutional state
sentence without a full hearing and consideration of his
§ 2254 habeas petition. Specifically, Petitioner claims
the substitution of a right to apply for parole after 25
years is not the Eighth Amendment equivalent of a sentence
imposed by a judge on a juvenile defendant after
consideration of the defendant's immaturity and capacity
for change at the time of the crime and sentencing. He
further alleges the State of Missouri has addressed the issue
such that the claim is exhausted. Petitioner asserts the
Court failed to address this argument in his federal habeas
petition, and the Court should vacate its order and address
the constitutional argument on the merits. Petitioner also
seeks an order granting a certificate of appealability.
response, the Respondent contends the arguments presented in
Petitioner's original state court petition did not
present the same factual and legal bases for the relief
Petitioner now requests. Therefore, Respondent asserts
Petitioner's claims remain unexhausted, and the Court
made no clear error of fact or law in its order of March 12,
2019 dismissing Petitioner's § 2254 habeas petition
59(e) provides, “[a] motion to alter or amend a
judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry
of judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). The rule makes clear
the district court has the power to correct its own mistakes
immediately following entry of judgment. White v. New
Hampshire Dep't of Emp't Sec., 455 U.S. 445, 450
(1982). “Rule 59(e) motions serve the limited function
of correcting ‘manifest errors of law or fact or to
present newly discovered evidence.'” United
States v. Metro. St. Louis Sewer Dist., 440 F.3d 930,
933 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Innovative Home Health Care,
Inc. v. P.T.-O.T. Assocs. of the Black Hills, 141 F.3d
1284, 1286 (8th Cir. 1998) ...