Miller v. Alabama Doesn't Apply to Life With Parole, MN High Court Holds

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: criminal law, Miller v. Alabama.

Kim Thul Ouk v. State of Minnesota. MN criminal law, Miller v. Alabama

Kim Thul Ouk was 15 years old when he was convicted in 1992 in Ramsey County, Minnesota, of two counts of first-degree murder. The conviction arose from the 1992 robbery of two gas stations, a Total station and an Amoco station, in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul. At the Total station, two clerks, John Petsch and Feliuai Faamamafa, were killed during the robbery. Two customers, Read Sulik and David Baer, were wounded. Ouk was sentenced to two mandatory life sentences with the possibility of release after 30 years, and two 15-year sentences for two attempted murders. In 1994, the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the conviction. State v. Ouk, 516 N.W.2d 180 (Minn. 1994).

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), which held that a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole violated the Eighth Amendment. Ouk filed a petition for postconviction relief, and argued that the mandatory nature of his 1992 sentence came under Miller. The district court dismissed the petition on the ground that Miller was not retroactive. Ouk then appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The Minnesota high court affirmed on the grounds that the 1992 Minnesota statute, which imposed a mandatory sentence, but with the possibility of parole, was materially different from the situation in Miller. In so holding, the Supreme Court did not reach the question of whether Miller should be applied retroactively.

The Court's unanimous opinion was authored by Justice Anderson.

The Court addressed a similar issue in Roman Nose v. State.

No. A13-1959 (Minn. June 11, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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