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State v. Samuel

Supreme Court of Kansas

January 11, 2019

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Roy Eugene Samuel, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         A claim that a criminal sentence is illegal because it violates the United States Constitution cannot be brought under K.S.A. 22-3504(1).

          Appeal from Wyandotte District Court; Wesley K. Griffin, Judge.

          Peter Maharry, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause, and Corrine E. Gunning, of the same office, was on the brief for appellant.

          Ethan Zipf-Sigler, assistant district attorney, argued the cause, and Mark A. Dupree Sr., district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the brief for appellee.

          OPINION

          Biles, J.

         Roughly 19 years after his second-degree murder conviction, Roy Eugene Samuel filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. He claims his sentence of life imprisonment with a mandatory 10-year term violates the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution because he was only 16 years old when he committed the crime. The district court summarily denied the motion. Samuel directly appeals to this court. We affirm because the motion is not the appropriate procedural vehicle to raise his claim. See State v. Amos, 307 Kan. 147, 148, 406 P.3d 917 (2017) ("This court has repeatedly held a defendant cannot raise constitutional challenges to a sentence via a motion to correct illegal sentence under K.S.A. 22-3504[1].").

         Factual and Procedural Background

         In 1996, Samuel, then 16 years old, killed Patrick Brunner. The State charged him with second-degree murder under K.S.A. 1996 Supp. 21-3402(a), which was an off-grid person felony. After he pled guilty as charged in 1997, the district court sentenced him to life imprisonment with a mandatory 10-year term before being eligible for parole.

         In 2016, Samuel moved under K.S.A. 22-3504(1) to correct an illegal sentence based on the United States Supreme Court decisions in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012) (holding mandatory life imprisonment without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 718, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 (2016) (holding Miller should apply retroactively for purposes of state collateral review of sentence). His motion acknowledged Miller was applicable only to "those juvenile offenders who were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole" but asked the district court to extend Miller to his case, "serving life with the possibility of parole." (Emphases added.)

         Samuel alternatively argued his sentence is substantively unconstitutional because he will be subject to lifetime supervision when he is paroled, seeking to extend State v. Dull, 302 Kan. 32, 351 P.3d 641 (2015) (mandatory lifetime postrelease supervision categorically unconstitutional when imposed on a juvenile convicted of aggravated indecent liberties with a child).

         The district court summarily denied the motion. See Makthepharak v. State, 298 Kan. 573, 576, 314 P.3d 876 (2013) (when presented with a motion to correct illegal sentence, a district court should conduct an initial examination of the motion to determine if it raises substantial issues of law or fact). The court held the motion to correct an illegal sentence was not a proper vehicle to challenge a sentence as unconstitutional. It alternatively held his sentence was constitutional. In that respect, the court relied on State v. Warrior, 303 Kan. 1008, 368 P.3d 1111 (2016) (holding K.S.A. 22-3504 "does not cover a claim that a sentence violates a constitutional provision"), and State v. Brown, 300 Kan. 542, Syl. ¶ 8, 331 P.3d 781 (2014) (mandatory hard 20 life sentence imposed on juvenile defendant convicted of felony murder did not violate the Eighth Amendment).

         Samuel directly appealed to this court. Jurisdiction is proper. K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3601(b)(3) (direct appeal when "a maximum sentence of life imprisonment has been imposed"); K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3601(b)(4) (direct appeal when "the defendant has been convicted of an off-grid crime"); Kirtdoll v. State, 306 Kan. 335, 337, 393 P.3d 1053 (2017) ("A ruling on a motion to correct an illegal sentence, where the sentence ...


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