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Fla. App. : Miller v. Alabama Not Retroactive

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An intermediate appellate court in Florida has held that Miller v. Alabama, forbidding automatic life-without-parole sentences for under-18 murderers, is not retroactive to cases on collateral review in that state.  (Hat tip: SL&P)  The case is Geter v. State, No. 3D12-1736, Third District Court of Appeal.

Florida still uses the old Linkletter/Stovall approach to retroactivity, created by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1960s but abandoned by it in the 1980s in Griffith v. Kentucky and Teague v. Lane.  (See our recent brief in Chaidez v. United States for some of the history and citations.)  States can follow this old approach if they want to under Danforth v. Minnesota.  (They shouldn't, IMHO.)  Those that do not generally follow Teague.  Because Linkletter/Stovall is more favorable to the defendant than Teague for collateral review, this case should be useful even in the latter states.

(For cases that were still on direct review when Miller was decided, the Griffith rule requires retroactive application in all states.)

Must have been an interesting oral argument:  the murderer, now 28, not a lawyer, against the Attorney General, not a deputy.  The facts of the case are after the jump.
Geter was arrested for first-degree murder in December 2000, on the eve of his seventeenth birthday. Earlier that same day, a rock or stone was thrown through the front window of the victim's home, breaking the window, and allowing Geter to gain entry into the home. The victim, in an attempt to defend her home, her child, and herself, struggled with Geter and struck him in the head with a crowbar. However, Geter was able to overpower the victim. He ripped the victim's panties from her body, raped her, and ejaculated inside her vagina.1 During the violent struggle between the victim and Geter, the victim's three-yearold son was awoken by his mother's screams.

After the rape, Geter got a butcher knife. He stabbed the victim in the neck eight to twelve times. Geter then cut the victim from her elbow to her wrist so that she would bleed faster and die. When the victim still had not died, Geter finally choked her to death. The victim's three-year old son witnessed the brutal murder of his mother. Before leaving the victim's home, Geter passed by the victim's son and told him to be a good boy.
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1 Serology tests confirmed the presence of Geter's DNA.

1 Comment

Geter didn't have an attorney and the decision is unpublished. It appears the pro se litigant missed the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court applied Miller retroactive when it sent Jackson v Hobbs (the companion case) back for resentencing.

I don't believe that a decision where the loosing side is unrepresented should be given much weight because there is no assurance that he/she did a good enough job. We don't let pro se litigants lead class action suits or qui tam actions on this theory. I think the same should apply here.

Cases are lined up in Michigan and Pennsylvania where we will see rulings where we know that both camps were filled armed and prepared to "hunt bear." I think their rulings will be more informative.

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