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White v. Premo

Supreme Court of Oregon

May 31, 2019

LAYCELLE TORNEE WHITE, Petitioner on Review,
v.
Jeff PREMO, Superintendent, Oregon State Penitentiary, Respondent on Review.

          Argued and submitted March 7, 2019, at the University of Oregon School of Law, Eugene, Oregon.

          On review from the Court of Appeals (CC 11C24240) (CA A154420) .[*]

          Ryan T. O'Connor, O'Connor Weber LLC, Portland, a rg ued the cause and fled the briefs for petitioner on rev iew.

          Paul L. Smith, Deputy Solicitor General, Salem, argued the cause and fled the brief for respondent on review. Also on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Aliza B. Kaplan, Lewis & Clark Law School, Portland, fled the brief for amici curiae Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure Scholars.

          Alexander A. Wheatley, Fisher & Phillips, LLC, Portland fled the brief for amici curiae Lewis & Clark Law School's Criminal Justice Reform Clinic, Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Oregon Justice Resource Center, Juvenile Law Center, and Phillips Black, Inc.

          Before Walters, Chief Justice, and Balmer, Nakamoto, Flynn, and Nelson, Justices, and Kistler and Brewer, Senior Justices pro tempore. [**]

         [365 Or. 22] Case Summary:

         Petitioner was 15 when he and his twin brother murdered an elderly couple. Among other charges, petitioner was charged with and convicted of murder, receiving an 800-month sentence. Following the United States Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), petitioner fled a petition for post-conviction relief, in which he argued that his 800-month sentence for murder is the equivalent of a life-without-parole sentence that did not comply with Miller. Specifically, petitioner argued that, to be in accord with Miller, his sentence required the trial court to determine that he was one of the rare juvenile offenders who is irreparably corrupt, a determination that the trial court did not make in petitioner's case. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition as pro-cedurally barred, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Held: Petitioner's petition for post-conviction relief is not procedurally barred; his sentence of 800 months is subject to Miller; and the record does not establish that the trial court found petitioner to be one of the rare juvenile offenders who is irreparably corrupt.

         The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The judgment of the circuit court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.

         [365 Or. 23] WALTERS, C. J.

         Along with his twin brother, Lydell, petitioner Laycelle White was charged with and convicted of aggravated murder and murder, receiving a sentence of life with the possibility of parole for the murder of one victim and an 800-month determinate sentence for the murder of the other.[1] In a petition for post-conviction relief, petitioner argues that his 800-month sentence for one murder is a de facto sentence of life without parole that must comport with the United States Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012).[2] Miller forbids a court from imposing a sentence of life without parole on a juvenile who commits a homicide, unless the homicide reflects the juvenile's irreparable corruption rather than the transient immaturity of youth. Id. at 479-80. Petitioner argues that the record in this case, which was decided 17 years before Miller, does not establish that the trial court made the required "irreparable corruption" finding and that his sentence therefore is invalid. We agree and reverse the decisions of the Court of Appeals, White v. Premo, 286 Or.App. 123, 399 P.3d 1034 (2017), and of the post-conviction court, and remand to the post-conviction court for further proceedings.

         This case raises virtually the same issues that we decided today in Lydell's case. White v. Premo (S065188), 365 Or. 1, ___P.3d___ (2019) (White (Lydell)). There, we determined that Lydell's petition for post-conviction relief was not proce-durally barred, that Miller applies to de facto life sentences, and that, given the particular circumstances presented in that case, Lydell's 800-month determinate sentence for one murder was subject to Miller's protections. Id. at___, ___. The record in that case did not convince us that the sentencing court had reached the conclusion that Lydell was one of the rare juvenile offenders who is irreparably depraved and that no reasonable sentencing court could reach any other conclusion. Id. at___. We therefore reversed the decision of the post-conviction court dismissing Lydell's petition and ordered that court to enter a judgment vacating his sentence [365 Or. 24] and remanding to the sentencing court for further proceedings. Id. at___.

         Here, the facts and arguments that the parties present on those issues are almost identical to those presented in Lydell's case, and we write only to discuss one distinction- the slight difference in the sentencing ...


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