Colorado v. TateAnnotate this Case
The Colorado Supreme Court granted review in two cases to determine what remedy is appropriate for juvenile defendants who were given sentences that would be unconstitutional under the federal Supreme Court's decision in "Miller v. Alabama," (132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012)). The issue in a third case centered on whether that remedy applies retroactively. Tenarro Banks and Michael Quinn Tate, were convicted in 2004 of class 1 felonies for acts committed when they were juveniles. Tate was convicted of felony murder for the stabbing death of a friend's father during a burglary when Tate was sixteen. Banks was convicted of first degree murder for shooting another teenager outside of a house party when he was fifteen. Under the sentencing scheme in place at the time, which governed offenses committed between 1990 and 2006, both Banks and Tate were given mandatory sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole ("LWOP"). While both cases were pending on appeal to the court of appeals, the Supreme Court released its opinion in "Miller." The Miller decision rendered the Colorado statutory scheme for mandatory LWOP in place between 1990 and 2006 unconstitutional as applied to juveniles, including Tate and Banks. The Colorado Court determined that the state legislature had not acted to adopt a new sentencing scheme in light of Miller. The Court therefore remanded these cases for such a determination: if the trial court should determine, after an individualized sentencing process, that LWOP was not warranted, the appropriate sentence (in the absence of legislative action) was life in prison with the possibility of parole after forty years ("LWPP"). This was the sentence that was in place both before and after the mandatory LWOP scheme at issue in this case—that is, before 1990 and after 2006. Eric Jensen was convicted in 1998 of first degree murder for helping a friend kill the friend's mother and dispose of the body. He committed this crime when he was seventeen. Under the sentencing scheme in place at the time, Jensen was given a mandatory sentence to LWOP. On direct appeal, the court of appeals affirmed the judgment. The Colorado Court denied Jensen's certiorari petition, and the judgment became final. Jensen later filed two Crim.P. 35(c) motions for post-conviction relief, the second of which was at issue here: the trial court denied the motion, and Jensen appealed to the court of appeals. While that appeal was pending, the Supreme Court released Miller. Jensen moved for post-conviction relief in light of Miller. The issue Jensen's case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether Miller's holding was retroactive to Jensen's case. The Court concluded that the new rule announced in Miller was procedural, rather than substantive, in nature, and that therefore it did not apply retroactively. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court's order denying his motion for post-conviction relief.