A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

By Burt Rose

Click to Download Opinion 200913267

THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS for the ELEVENTH CIRCUIT has decided the case of KENNETH LOGGINS, Appellant, versus KIM T. THOMAS, Interim Commissioner, Alabama Dept. of Corrections, and the ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF ALABAMA, No. 09-13267, 2011 WL 3903402 (September 7, 2011). This was an appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Kenneth Loggins was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for a brutal murder. Because he was seventeen years old when he committed the murder, the state courts eventually set aside his death sentence based on Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183 (2005), which held that it is unconstitutional to execute anyone who is under eighteen years of age at the time of the crime. Thus Loggins was resentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Loggins then sought to escape his life without parole sentence, contending that it, too, is an unconstitutional penalty for him because he was not yet eighteen years old at the time he committed the murder. Loggins appealed the district court’s denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition seeking relief from the life without parole sentence, arguing that sentencing a juvenile to life without the possibility of parole constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

The Court ruled that, under habeas law, no Supreme Court decision clearly establishes that the state court could not order the trial court to impose on Loggins a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole after it had vacated his death sentence in order to comply with the Roper decision, and that this decision does not prevent a state from imposing a life without parole sentence on a defendant who committed a murder at age seventeen.

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