Moore v. Biter

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 08-07-2013
  • Case #: 11-56846
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Pregerson for the Court; Circuit Judges Fletcher and Nguyen
  • Full Text Opinion

The Supreme Court's decision in Graham v. Florida, which prohibits life without parole for juvenile non-homicide offenders, may be applied retroactively to similar sentences on collateral review.

Roosevelt Brian Moore was convicted in 1991 of non-homicide crimes committed when he was 16 years old and sentenced to 254 years in prison. After 127 years and two months, Moore will be eligible for parole. Moore appealed his sentence to the California Court of Appeal, where his appeal was denied. After Moore’s pro se state habeas petitions were denied in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court, Moore filed a federal habeas petition. This petition was dismissed without prejudice. Moore filed pro se an application as a motion to alter or amend judgment. The magistrate judge denied the motion because he felt that the Supreme Court's decision in Graham v. Florida did not apply retroactively on collateral review. Graham held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the punishment of life without parole for juvenile non-homicide offenders. Graham established a new rule of law that, non-homicidal juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court has established that rules prohibiting a certain category of punishments for a class of defendants because of their status or offense shall apply retroactively. The Ninth Circuit held that Graham meets this threshold in that it applies to a class of offenders and a particular type of offense. The panel concluded that Moore can challenge his sentence under Graham, because Graham established a new rule of law that is retroactive on collateral review. Finally, because Moore’s sentence was essentially the same as the one in Graham, and because Moore’s crimes were non-homicide, the State Court’s decision was contrary to established federal law. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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