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State v. Ragland

State v. Ragland

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Published by Nick Sarcone
Iowa Supreme Court Opinion from 8/16/13
Iowa Supreme Court Opinion from 8/16/13

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Nick Sarcone on Aug 16, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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No. 12
1758Filed August 16, 2013
 Appellee.Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County,
 Timothy O’ 
Grady, Judge.
 The State appeals the district court’s refusal to sentence defendant
in accordance with the
Governor’s commutation order.
 Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas S. Tauber, AssistantAttorney General, Matthew D. Wilber, County Attorney, and Margaret J.Popp-Reyes, Assistant County Attorney, for appellant. Jon M. Kinnamon of Kinnamon, Kinnamon, Russo, Meyer &Keegan, Cedar Rapids, for appellee.
CADY, Chief Justice.
In this appeal, we must decide if the district court erred inresentencing a defendant who was convicted as a juvenile of first-degreemurder and mandatorily sentenced to life without parole after he claimedhis sentence violated the constitutional prohibition against cruel andunusual punishment and after the Governor of Iowa commuted thesentence to sixty years without parole. We conclude the district courtproperly resentenced the defendant. We affirm the sentence imposed by the district court.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
  Jeffrey Ragland was seventeen years old in 1986 when he and twofriends attacked another group of boys in a grocery store parking lot inCouncil Bluffs. Ragland instigated the fight by making aggressivecomments, while the boys in the other group attempted to avoid aconflict. Moments before the confrontation turned tragic, Ragland yelledeither
“Let’s do it” or “We’re gonna fight.”
One of the boys with Raglandthen promptly swung a tire iron he was carrying and struck one of theboys in the other group, Timothy Sieff, in the head. Sieff fell to theground and subsequently died from the blow.Ragland was charged with first-degree murder for Sieff 
’s death
andwas prosecuted as an adult. Following a jury trial, he was found guilty of first-degree murder under the felony-murder doctrine. The district courtthen sentenced Ragland to a term of life in prison without parole. Thesentence was mandatory under Iowa law.
Iowa Code § 902.1(2013).
 The version of the Code in effect at the time of the homicide was the 1987 Code.However, no relevant, substantive changes have been made, and for purposes of thisopinion, we will refer to the 2013 Code unless otherwise indicated.
3Ragland has been incarcerated in the state penal system since hisconviction. Now forty-four years old, he has pursued numerouspostconviction relief actions in state and federal court during hisimprisonment, including an application to correct his sentence. In 2012,we responded to this application by directing the district court toconsider whether the mandatory life sentence without parole Raglandwas serving constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Stateand Federal Constitutions. We remanded the case to the district court toconduct a hearing on the question.
State v. Ragland 
, 812 N.W.2d 654,659 (Iowa 2012).On June 25, 2012, shortly after our directive for the district court
to consider the constitutionality of Ragland’s sentence, but prior to the
hearing, the United States Supreme Court decided
Miller v. Alabama 
, 567U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 183 L. Ed. 2d 407 (2012). The Court held the
Eighth Amendment prohibited “a sentencing scheme that mandates life
in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile o
at ___,132 S. Ct. at 2469, 183 L. Ed. 2d at 424. The Court found thatdefendants who committed homicide crimes as juveniles and faced asentence of life without parole were entitled to a sentencing hearing thatwould permit the sentencing court to consider the individualcharacteristics of the defendant and the individual circumstances of thecrime as mitigating factors for a lesser sentence.
See id.
at ___, 132S. Ct. at 2475, 183 L. Ed. 2d at 418.
Veal v. State 
, we determined a challenge to a sentence of life without thepossibility of parole is a challenge to an illegal sentence and thus not subject to thethree-year statute of limitations for postconviction relief actions. 779 N.W.2d 63, 65(Iowa 2010). In
State v. Bruegger 
, we held a defendant may now mount an as-appliedchallenge to his or her sentence as cruel and unusual. 773 N.W.2d 862, 884 (Iowa2009).

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