Brown v. Precythe, No. 19-2910 (8th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
In an action arising from a constitutional challenge to Missouri's remedial parole review process for individuals sentenced to mandatory life without the possibility of parole for homicide offenses committed as juveniles, a class of Missouri inmates who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole for such juvenile homicide offenses filed suit claiming that Missouri's parole review policies and practices violate their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and their rights to due process of law under the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.
The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that Missouri's policies and practices, when implemented and considered in combination, worked to deprive plaintiffs of their Eighth Amendment right to a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based upon demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. The court explained that, because the parole review process in place under Senate Bill 590 failed to adequately ensure that juveniles whose crimes reflect only transient immaturity—and who have since matured—will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence, it violated the Eighth Amendment.
The court affirmed the order of the district court determining that the parole review process of SB 590 violated plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment rights, and affirmed the order determining that Missouri cannot use a risk assessment tool in its revised parole proceedings unless it has been developed to address the unique circumstances of the JLWOP Class. The court vacated the order regarding appointment of counsel and remanded for further proceedings. Finally, the court denied plaintiffs' motion to strike.
Court Description: [Kelly, Author, with Colloton and Arnold, Circuit Judges] Civil case - Civil rights. Plaintiffs, a class of Missouri inmates who were sentenced to mandatory life terms without parole for offenses committed as juveniles, claim Missouri's parole review policies and practices violated their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and their rights to due process of law under the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions. The district court granted plaintiffs summary judgment, holding Missouri's parole review process did not provide a meaningful opportunity for release based on plaintiffs' demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation; the court further ordered Missouri to present a plan remedying the violations and it barred Missouri from using any risk assessment tool in its parole review process unless the tool was developed to address members of the class; the district court further found that defendants were not required to provide state-funded counsel to class members in their parole proceedings. Held: the order granting plaintiffs summary judgment is affirmed, and the court's order concerning requiring Missouri to present a remedy and barring use of a risk assessment tool unless it was developed to address the class is affirmed; the court vacates the district court finding that state-funded counsel is not required and remands that issue for further proceedings on the issue of whether the appointment of state-funded counsel is necessary to ensure that class members whose crimes reflect on transient immaturity and have since matured do not serve disproportionate sentences. Judge Arnold, concurring. Judge Colloton, dissenting.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on August 30, 2022.