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Endreson v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 19, 2018

Robert Dean Endreson, Petitioner,
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Respondent.




         On May 4, 2018, Petitioner Robert Dean Endreson (“Petitioner” or “Endreson”), who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence in Florence, Arizona, filed a pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. 1) (“Petition”). Respondents answered the Petition (Doc. 8), and Petitioner replied (Doc. 9). This matter is ripe for decision. This matter is on referral to the undersigned pursuant to Rules 72.1 and 72.2 of the Local Rules of Civil Procedure for further proceedings and a report and recommendation. As set forth below, the undersigned recommends that the Petition be denied and dismissed with prejudice.

         I. Procedural History

         A. Conviction, sentence, appeal, PCR proceedings, and previous habeas

         Petitioner was convicted in Maricopa County Superior Court, case numbers CR- 54712 and CR-54669, of first-degree murders which both took place on March 12, 1968.[1] Although Petitioner was initially sentenced to death in each case, the Arizona Supreme Court later reduced his sentences to life imprisonment pursuant to Stewart v. Massachusetts, 408 U.S. 845 (1972), citing Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972). See State v. Endreson, 506 P.2d at 254; Doc. 8-1, Ex. A at 5, fn. 1; Doc. 8-1, Ex. B at 8-9. Petitioner asserts that he was 20 years old at the time of the murders (Doc. 1 at 6), and this appears to be uncontested (Doc. 8-3 at 58; Doc. 8 at 14).

         Petitioner filed a prior § 2254 Petition, CIV 96-00389-PHX-RCB, involving both cases and arguing that the Arizona Supreme Court had no authority to sentence him to life sentences under A.R.S. §13-453 given that the death penalty provision of that statute had been found unconstitutional (Doc. 8-1, Ex. B at 4-11). Although the District Court denied Petitioner relief on procedural grounds and went on to state that the habeas claim “is wholly without merit, ” the judgment states that the Petition was dismissed without prejudice (Doc. 8-1, Ex. B at 10; Doc. 8-1, Ex. B at 7).[2] The Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision of the District Court (Doc. 8-1, Ex. B at 14-15).

         On August 28, 2013, the state superior court sua sponte appointed counsel and initiated a post-conviction proceeding to address the effect of Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), on Endreson (Doc. 8-1, Ex. D at 17-19).[3] After briefing, the superior court determined that Miller applied retroactively, but denied relief for Endreson (Doc. 8-3, Ex. H at 24-30):

This Court appreciates that there was a time in the past that the legal definition of a minor was a person under the age of 21 years and it was this definition that existed when [Petitioner] was sentenced. That does not however, suggest that a person [like Petitioner] who was above 18 and below 21 years of age at the time of the offense is entitled to the same consideration of age as would apply to an offender under the age of 18 years. The relied upon research was not based upon legal definitions of adult versus juvenile status but rather, was based upon under versus over the age of 18 years of age at the time of the offense.

(Doc. 8-3, Ex. H at 29).

         The Arizona Court of Appeals granted review and denied relief, agreeing with the superior court's holding and reasoning:

We grant review, but deny relief. Miller is a significant change in the law and is retroactive. Montgomery v. Louisiana, ___U.S.___, 136 S.Ct. 718, 736 (2016); State v. Valencia, 239 Ariz. 255, 259, ¶ 17 (App. 2016). Miller, however, has no application to Endreson's case. Although Miller does make frequent reference to “children” and “juveniles, ” the Court ultimately held, “We therefore hold that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crime violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishments.'” Miller, 132 S.Ct. at 2460 (emphasis added). In other words, Miller placed a constitutional limitation on the states' authority to sentence offenders who committed their offenses when they were under the age of 18, not offenders who committed their offenses before they reached the age of majority as that may be defined by each individual state.
That the Supreme Court intended to draw the line at 18 years of age in Miller is made clear by earlier decisions that likewise established constitutional limitations on the sentencing of juvenile offenders. In Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 74-75 (2010), the Court held a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide may not receive a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. As in Miller, the Court in Graham made frequent reference to “juvenile offenders” in general, but drew a “clear line” to differentiate between who is and who is not a “juvenile offender.” Id. at 74. The Court expressly held, “Because ‘[t]he age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood,' those who were below that age when the offense was committed may not be sentenced to life without parole for a nonhomicide crime.” Id. at 74-75 (quoting Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 574 (2005)). In Roper, the Court held states could not impose the death penalty for offenders it repeatedly identified as “juvenile offenders under 18.” 543 U.S. at 568-74. Because Endreson was over 18 when he committed his offense, the superior court correctly concluded that Miller provides no basis for granting him relief from his life sentence.

(Doc. 8-3, Ex. H at 57). The court of appeals also found that the superior court's failure to hold an evidentiary hearing was not a due process violation because the only issues were legal issues, under Miller, and the application of the law to undisputed facts; the court of appeals also noted that the legal issue was adequately briefed in the court of appeals briefing (Doc. 8-3, Ex. H. at 57-58).

         The Arizona Supreme Court denied review (Doc. 8-3, Ex. H at 74), and the court of appeals issued the mandate on May 23, 2017 (Doc. 8-3, Ex. H at 76). Respondents acknowledge that the Petition was timely filed (Doc. 8 at 4).

         B. This Petition

         The Petition names Charles Ryan as Respondent and the Arizona Attorney General as an Additional Respondent. Petitioner raises four grounds for relief.[4] Grounds One through Three are the same; Petitioner asserts in each that he received an illegal sentence, in violation of the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment, because he was a “juvenile by law” and, therefore, his life-without-parole sentences violate Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016). Petitioner argues that he ...

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