Falcon v. State
NJDC and several other organizations signed onto an amicus brief filed by Juvenile Law Center at the Florida Supreme Court in support of Rebecca Lee Falcon, who was convicted of first degree murder for a crime she committed at age 15 and for which she received a life without parole sentence. Amici argued that Rebecca’s conviction is unconstitutional pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama, which banned mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles. At the time Rebecca was sentenced, Florida law mandated a life without parole sentence for homicide offenses. Amici asserted that Miller applies retroactively to cases such as Rebecca’s which were final before Miller and being considered on collateral review. As such, Rebecca should be resentenced following an individualized sentencing hearing.
In the brief, amici discussed the need for extra protection and special care for youth in the justice system because adolescent immaturity manifests itself in ways that implicate culpability, including diminished ability to assess risks, make good decisions, and control impulses. Amici asserted that a core characteristic of adolescence is the capacity to change and mature. Amici argued that the United States Supreme Court has already answered the question of retroactivity by applying Miller to Kuntrell Jackson’s case, which was before the Court on collateral review. Additionally, amici asserted that since the Court in Miller determined that mandatory LWOP punishment is cruel and unusual, the punishment is cruel and unusual regardless of the date it is handed down. Amici argued that categorically, any Eighth Amendment decision barring a particular sentence must necessarily provide retroactive relief.
In March 2015, the Florida Supreme Court held that Miller applied retroactively to juvenile offenders whose convictions and sentences were final at the time that Miller was decided. The court went on to find that “the rule set forth in Miller constitutes a ‘development of fundamental significance,’ and therefore must be given retroactive effect.”
Court: Florida Supreme Court
Filed: July 29, 2013 (download .pdf)
Amicus Brief Discusses: Juvenile Life Without Parole Post-Miller; Miller Retroactivity; Sentencing
Decision: March 19, 2015 (download.pdf)