Brown v. Precythe, No. 2:17-cv-04082-NKL, 2017 WL 4980872 (W.D. Mo. Oct. 31, 2017) – Plaintiffs, all juveniles convicted of first-degree murder offenses and originally sentenced to LWOP, were permitted by state statute post-Miller to petition for parole after serving 25 years in prison. Each of the plaintiffs petitioned for, but was denied, parole. Each is scheduled for reconsideration of the parole determination in five years. In this action, plaintiffs allege that Missouri’s parole policies and practices violate their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and their rights to due process under the state and federal constitutions. They asserted that they were denied: a meaningful opportunity for release upon demonstration of their maturity and rehabilitation; the right to review and rebut evidence against them at parole hearings; and sufficient notice of and explanation about the basis for their denials. In particular, they alleged that the Parole Board and Missouri Director of Corrections deprived them of a meaningful opportunity for release because, inter alia, the Board is a political body that lacks transparency, the Board presides over too many hearings to fairly consider plaintiff’s applications, the Board has broad discretion and its decisions are unreviewable. Moreover, parole hearings for youthful offenders are generally treated no differently than typical parole hearings. Prisoners are not permitted access to their parole files so they cannot challenge or correct much of the information that the Board considers. Prisoners are not entitled to assistance of counsel during or prior to the hearing. And the information that prisoners are permitted to present at the hearing and their time for speaking is severely limited, even though victims are not so limited. In addition, plaintiffs cited evidence suggesting that the Board did not take parole decisions seriously, with some members failing to read files before voting and some turning parole hearings into games. Finally, the parole grant rate for juveniles originally sentenced to life without parole was, as of June 2017, only two out of twenty. Each denial cited the circumstances of the offense as the reason for the denial. In denying defendants’ motion to dismiss, the court confirmed that the “failure to provide a juvenile offender eligible for parole with a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate maturity and reform violates the prohibition against excessive punishment.” It distinguished the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in LeBlanc, explaining that that case dealt with the special rules applicable only to habeas actions and that the Court expressly did not decide whether the Eighth Amendment required more than normal parole procedures. Instead, looking to Greiman, Hogan, and related decisions, it reasoned that Graham, Miller, and Montgomery require states to provide juvenile offenders with an opportunity to demonstrate maturity and rehabilitation. Looking to plaintiffs’ allegations, it concluded, if proven, the allegations could convince a reasonable factfinder that the plaintiffs did not have a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate maturity and rehabilitation as required. The court further determined that, under Graham, Miller, and Montgomery, a juvenile offender has a liberty interest in meaningful parole review. It reasoned that the decisions demand more than a possibility of parole, but rather a meaningful and realistic opportunity for release. The plaintiffs’ allegations, if proven, could warrant a finding that such an opportunity for release had been denied. Accordingly, the defendants’ motion to dismiss was denied.