Landrum v. State, No. SC15–1071, 2016 WL 3191099 (Fla. June 9, 2016) – The Florida Supreme Court held that a sentencer must conduct an individualized sentencing hearing, considering the “distinctive attributes of youth” and whether a juvenile offender’s crime “reflects transient immaturity” as opposed to “irreparable corruption,” before imposing a discretionary life-without-parole sentence on a juvenile offender. Juvenile defendant (age 16 at time of crime) was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to discretionary life without parole. The Court held that the “Supreme Court’s decision in Miller applies to juvenile offenders whose sentences of [life without parole] were imposed pursuant to a discretionary sentencing scheme when the sentencing court, in exercising that discretion, was not required to, and did not take into account how children are different and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.” (quotations omitted). The court reasoned that “[n]one of the Miller factors now codified in section 921.1401 existed in the sentencing scheme under which Landrum was sentenced, and the sentencing court’s discretion to impose a life sentence was without restriction.” The court further reasoned that the fact that the life without parole sentence was imposed with discretion, instead of mandatorily, does not change the outcome: “The basis for the [Eighth Amendment and Florida Constitutional violations] does not emanate from the mandatory nature of the sentence imposed. Rather, the violation emanates from the United States Supreme Court’s command that because children are ‘constitutionally different,’ the Eighth Amendment requires that sentencing of juvenile offenders be individualized in order to separate the ‘rare’ juvenile offender whose crime reflects ‘irreparable corruption,’ from the juvenile offender whose crime reflects ‘transient immaturity.’” (citations omitted).
The court further reasoned that “the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Montgomery clarified that the Miller Court had no intention of limiting its rule of requiring individualized sentencing for juvenile offenders only to mandatorily-imposed sentences of [life without parole ], when a sentencing court’s discretion was not informed by Miller’s considerations. A contrary interpretation of the Miller holding would mean that sentencing juveniles to [life without parole] would not be . . . ‘rare’ and ‘uncommon.’” (citations omitted). The court concluded that based on Miller and Montgomery, the Eighth Amendment requires that a sentencing court’s discretion when sentencing juvenile offenders must be informed by consideration of “youth and its attendant circumstances.” Without these considerations, the sentencer is unable to distinguish between an offender whose crimes reflect “transient immaturity” and those whose crimes reflect “irreparable corruption.” “Failing to make this distinction, otherwise, would mean life sentences for juveniles would not be exceedingly rare, but possibly commonplace.” Here, the trial court did not consider any of the distinctive attributes of youth before imposing its sentence. The court had discretion to sentence Landrum to 22.3 years to life imprisonment. The court also did not consider whether the crime reflected “transient immaturity” rather than “irreparable corruption.” “And most certainly, the sentencing court did not consider why, although a life sentence for a juvenile offender should be exceedingly ‘rare’ and ‘uncommon,’ Landrum should receive such an uncommon and exceedingly rare life sentence, rather than a 22.3 year guideline sentence, or even one that departed downward from the guideline sentence . . . . Miller’s emphasis on the rarity of life imprisonment sentences for juvenile offenders, coupled with absence of any consideration of the distinctive attributes of youth by Landrum’s sentencing court, render Landrum’s sentence unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment as construed by Miller.” The court quashed the Second District’s upholding Landrum’s life without parole sentence and remanded for resentencing in accordance with Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082, 921.1401, and 921.1402.