Petitions for Review from the Superior Court in Pima County.
Nos. CR051447 and CR48232. The Honorable Catherine M. Woods,
Judge. The Honorable James E. Marner, Judge.
LaWall, Pima County Attorney, By Jacob R. Lines, Deputy
County Attorney, Tucson, Counsel for Respondent.
Brault, Pima County Legal Defender, By Alex Heveri, Assistant
Legal Defender, Tucson, Counsel for Petitioner Gregory Nidez
R. Sonenberg, Pima County Public Defender, By David J.
Euchner and Katherine A. Estavillo, Assistant Public
Defenders, Tucson, Counsel for Petitioner Joey Lee Healer.
Espinosa authored the opinion of the Court, in which
Presiding Judge Miller and Chief Judge Eckerstrom concurred.
Gregory Valencia Jr. and Joey Healer seek review of trial
court orders denying their respective petitions for
post-conviction relief, in which they argued Miller v.
Alabama, __ U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407
(2012), constitutes a significant change in the law
applicable to their natural-life prison sentences. Because
Miller, as clarified by the United States Supreme
Court in Montgomery v. Louisiana, __ U.S. __, __,
136 S.Ct. 718, 734, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 (2016), " bar[s]
life without parole" for all juvenile offenders except
those " whose crimes reflect permanent
incorrigibility," we accept review and grant relief.
Valencia and Healer were each convicted of first-degree
murder in addition to other offenses and were sentenced to
natural life in prison. Both were juveniles at the time of
their offenses. Although we vacated one of Valencia's
non-homicide convictions on appeal, we affirmed his remaining
convictions and sentences. State v. Valencia, No. 2
CA-CR 96-0652 (memorandum decision filed Apr. 30, 1998). We
affirmed Healer's convictions and sentences on appeal.
State v. Healer, No. 2 CA-CR 95-0683 (memorandum
decision filed Dec. 24, 1996).
In 2013, Valencia filed two notices of post-conviction
relief, along with a supplement, raising various claims,
including that Miller constituted a significant
change in the law pursuant to Rule 32.1(g), Ariz. R. Crim. P.
The trial court, treating Valencia's second notice as a
petition for post-conviction relief, summarily denied relief.
On review, we granted partial relief, determining Valencia
had not been given an adequate opportunity to raise his claim
based on Miller because the court had erred in
construing his second notice as his petition for
post-conviction relief. We thus remanded the case to the
trial court for further proceedings related to that claim,
but otherwise denied relief. State v. Valencia, No.
2 CA-CR 2013-0450-PR, (memorandum decision filed May 6,
Healer also sought post-conviction relief in 2013, seeking to
raise a claim pursuant to Miller and requesting that
counsel be appointed. The trial court, however, summarily
dismissed his notice, concluding Miller did not
apply. We granted relief, determining Healer was entitled to
counsel and to file a petition for post-conviction relief and
remanding the case to the trial court for further
proceedings. State v. Healer, No. 2 CA-CR
2013-0372-PR, (memorandum decision filed Jan. 28, 2014).
Valencia and Healer then filed separate petitions in which
they raised the same argument--that Miller
constituted a significant change in the law applicable to
their respective natural-life sentences. They contended that
under Miller, Arizona's sentencing scheme is
unconstitutional because a life sentence was essentially a
sentence of life without a meaningful opportunity for release
due to the abolition of parole. Each further argued our
sentencing scheme is unconstitutional because " it
completely fails to take any account of the attendant
characteristics of youth." Last, both argued " the
process by which [they] w[ere] sentenced was
unconstitutional" because the court " failed to
give proper weight to youth and its attendant
The trial court in each proceeding summarily denied relief.
The court in Valencia's proceeding noted that, " at
the time of sentencing" the court believed " that
it had the discretion to impose natural life or,
alternatively, life with the opportunity for parole after 25
years." It further observed that Valencia had been given
individualized sentencing consideration as required by
Miller and that, after that consideration, the court
found his youth to be a mitigating factor but, in
consideration of other factors, had nonetheless determined a
natural-life sentence was appropriate.
The trial court in Healer's proceeding determined that
any constitutional infirmity in Arizona's sentencing
scheme had been resolved by recent statutory changes
reinstating parole for juvenile offenders given a life
sentence with an opportunity for release. The court further
determined that, in any event, the sentencing court had found
Healer's age to be a mitigating factor and had imposed a
natural-life sentence ...