Croft v. Williams, No. 14-3419 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
For the second time, Croft sought the Seventh Circuit’s approval to pursue a successive petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254, relying primarily on the 2012 Supreme Court decision, Miller v. Alabama, that the Eighth Amendment forbids sentences of mandatory life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders. Because he was 17 when he committed murder, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated sexual assault, Croft argues that his sentence of natural life imprisonment without parole for the murder is unconstitutional under Miller. The Seventh Circuit denied the petition, stating that even if it were to hold that Miller applies retroactively on collateral review, Miller is inapplicable to Croft’s case. Life sentences for murder are discretionary under Illinois law, a critical difference from the situation presented in Miller, which considered only “mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles.” The sentencing court explicitly stated that it had considered the presentence report, which discussed Croft’s age. The appellate court underscored the discretionary nature of Croft’s sentence when it reviewed the ample justifications supporting it, including the fact that Croft’s crimes were among the most brutal the court had ever seen.