WITHDRAWING PLEA CLAIMING LAW CHANGED ON EXECUTION OF MINOR: McSTOOTS V. COM. (COA 7/27/2007)

MCSTOOTS V. COMMONWEALTH
CRIMINAL:  WITHDRAWING PLEA CLAIMING LAW CHANGED ON EXECUTION OF MINOR
2006-CA-000857
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING
PANEL: WINE PRESIDING; NICKELL, TAYLOR CONCUR
COUNTY: GRAYSON
DATE RENDERED: 7/27/2007

McStoots was 16 years old when he entered a plea agreement in 1995 where in exchange for his guilty plea to the charges, the Commonwealth recommended sentences of life imprisonment without parole for twenty-five years on each count of murder and ten years on the robbery charge. 

He now contends that his plea agreement and sentence should be re-evaluated in light of the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)(unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment for a state to execute any individual who was under the age of eighteen at the time of the offense.).  In justifying the prohibition of the death penalty on those less than eighteen years of age, the Court pointed to juveniles’ lack of maturity, underdeveloped senses of responsibility and judgment, and susceptibility to peer pressure and negative influences. Id. at 569-72.    Based on these considerations, the SCOTUS concluded that juveniles lack the culpability necessary to be subject to the death penalty.

Although, COA agreed with McStoots that the Roper decision represents a substantive change in the law which must be applied retroactively to all cases in which the death penalty was imposed on an individual who was under the age of eighteen at the time he committed the offense. Bowling v. Commonwealth, 163 S.W.3d 361, 370 (Ky. 2005), it did  not agree that the new rule applies retroactively to all cases in which a juvenile was charged with a capital offense, or where the death penalty was sought but not imposed. To the contrary, the holding in Roper was specifically limited to death sentences, not to all sentencings of juveniles in capital cases. Generally, a plea cannot be automatically rendered involuntary by a subsequent change in the relevant law.”

Consequently, McStoots has failed to provide any factual or legal basis for relief from his sentence under CR 60.02 or RCr 11.42.  Affirmed.

By Michael Stevens

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