Tony Allen Roman Nose v. State of Minnesota. MN criminal law, juvenile life without parole, Miller v Alabama
Tony Allen Roman Nose was convicted in Washington County, Minnesota, in 2001 of first degree murder in connection with the 2000 rape and murder of Jolene Studemann. Roman Nose was two months shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the offense. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of release, and the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed his conviction in 2003.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012), which held that sentencing a juvenile to life without parole without consideration of age and other factors was cruel and unusual punishment. Even though the Miller court cited the Minnesota statute under which Roman Nose was sentenced, it did not categorically prohibit life without parole sentences for juveniles. Instead, as the Minnesota high court pointed out, it held that a judge or jury must consider mitigating circumstances in juvenile cases.
Emboldened by the Supreme Court's holding, Roman Nose filed a petition for postconviction relief in Washington County and argued that his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment. The trial court granted the petition and allowed the possibility of release after 30 years. The State appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which issued its decision on April 16, 2014. In the meantime, another appeal with a similar issue was before the Minnesota court, Chambers v. State, 831 N.W.2d 311 (Minn. 2013). The decision in that case was handed down on May 31, 2013, and held that Miller does not apply retroactively to sentences that became final before Miller was decided.
Roman Nose first argued that the Chambers case could not be applied in his case because his sentence had already been reduced. Therefore, he argued, the Supreme Court would need to re-impose the original sentence, in violation of Miller. But the court disagreed. It held that simply reinstating the original sentence was not the same as imposing a new sentence.
Roman Nose next argued simply that Chambers was wrongly decided, and pointed to a federal case in which the federal government allegedly conceded that Miller was retroactive. But the court disagreed, and noted that it was aware of the federal case when it decided Chambers. Therefore, the court declined to depart from its earlier precedent.
The Supreme Court also held that the petition for postconviction relief was time barred, and also that the reduced sentence should not be affirmed under the high court's general supervisory powers.
Justice Anderson concurred, but suggested that the Legislature should address the issue. Justice Stras also concurred, but criticized the majority for even considering whether the sentence could be addressed under the court's general supervisory powers. Justice Lillehaug also concurred, but expressed his hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a definitive ruling as to whether Miller should be applied retroactively.
Justice Page had dissented in the Chambers case and issued a short dissenting opinion stating that he dissented in this case for the same reasons.
For another recent case on this issue, see State v. Ouk.
No. A13-0483 (Minn. April 16, 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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