United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge
Statement of Facts and of the Case
case arises out of a November 27, 2008 slaying in the City of
York, Pennsylvania. On October 7, 2009, the petitioner,
Kwilson Coleman, was convicted of first degree murder in
connection with this killing, and received a mandatory
sentence of life imprisonment. Coleman was 17 years old at
the time of the killing.
21, 2013, Coleman, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus
with this court, arguing that he was entitled to
re-sentencing in light of the Supreme Court's decision in
Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), which held
that life sentences without the possibility of parole for
juvenile offenders violated the Eighth Amendment to the
United States Constitution. Counsel from the Federal Public
Defender's Office was then appointed to represent Coleman
on this petition, and upon a review of the trial record, a
second counseled petition was filed which presented both the
juvenile life imprisonment sentencing issue initially raised
by Coleman in his pro se petition, but also sought
further relief in the form of an order granting habeas corpus
relief and directing a re-trial based upon alleged vagaries
in eyewitness identification at Coleman's trial,
questions regarding the disclosure of a photo array at trial,
concerns regarding whether the principal eyewitness had been
able to identify Coleman during a photographic lineup, and
issues relating to the performance of trial counsel.
court has worked with counsel to address these additional
merits issues, directing briefing on these additional issues
and scheduling a hearing on this matter for February 2, 2018
in order to fully develop the factual record on these claims.
The parties have also been working industriously and
cooperatively to address the additional issues raised by
Coleman's amended petition, issues that go to the scope
of the habeas relief Coleman is entitled to receive in this
result of these efforts, in a commendable display of candor,
the Commonwealth has today notified the court that it agrees
that it is in the interests of justice to grant Coleman's
petition for writ of habeas corpus and remand this matter to
the Court of Common Pleas, not only for re-sentencing, but
also for retrial on the merits. In light of this
acknowledgment and concession by the Commonwealth, for the
reasons set forth below, it is recommended that the writ of
habeas corpus be granted since all parties agree that Coleman
is entitled to relief in the form of an order conditionally
granting the petitioner's petition for writ of habeas
corpus, vacating Coleman's conviction and sentence and
directing the Commonwealth to either retry Coleman within 120
days or release him.
parties agree that Coleman is entitled to habeas corpus
relief. At the outset, it is clear that the writ should issue
to permit re-sentencing since the imposition of a sentence of
mandatory life imprisonment without possibility of parole
upon a juvenile offender violates the Eighth Amendment to the
United States Constitution. Miller v. Alabama, 567
U.S.460 (2012). Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court
has held that Miller's prohibition on mandatory
life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders
announced a new substantive rule that, under the
Constitution, is retroactive in cases such as the
petitioner's. Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct.
718, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 (2016). Given the teachings of
Miller and Montgomery, lower federal courts
which have examined petitions for writs of habeas corpus
presented by juvenile offenders serving mandatory life
sentences have acknowledged that these petitioners are:
“entitled to be resentenced in conformity with
Miller and that the state courts, in the first
instance, are entitled to determine the appropriate
sentence.” Williams v. Wetzel et al., No.
3:13-CV-1705 (M.D. Pa. May 25, 2016); Jones v. Wetzel et
al., 14-CV-1385 (M.D. Pa. May 23, 2016); Palmer v.
Cain, No. CV-03-2983, 2016 WL 2637654, at *3 (E.D. La.
Apr. 5, 2016), report and recommendation adopted sub nom.
Palmer v. Cain, No. CV-03-2983, 2016 WL 2594753 (E.D.
La. May 5, 2016); Martinez v. Hubbard, No.
CV-11-5640-JAK (PLA), 2016 WL 429628, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Feb.
3, 2016). Moreover, with respect to the merits issues of
eyewitness identification, photo array procedures, and
conduct of trial counsel raised by Coleman in his amended
petition, after a thorough investigation of these new
matters, the Commonwealth reports that the interests of
justice are best served by a remand of this case for a new
trial. In light of this concession by the Commonwealth it is
recommended that this petition be granted and an order
entered directing the Commonwealth to either retry Coleman
within 120 days, or release the petitioner.
for the foregoing reasons, upon consideration of this
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254, and the Commonwealth's notification
that it agrees that it is in the interests of justice to
grant Coleman's petition for writ of habeas corpus and
remand this matter to the Court of Common Pleas, not only for
re-sentencing, but for re-trial on the merits, IT IS
RECOMMENDED that the Petition be CONDITIONALLY GRANTED, that
Coleman's conviction and sentence be vacated, and that
the Commonwealth be directed to either retry Coleman within
120 days, or release the petitioner.
parties are further placed on notice that pursuant to Local
Any party may object to a magistrate judge's proposed
findings, recommendations or report addressing a motion or
matter described in 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) or making
a recommendation for the disposition of a prisoner case or a
habeas corpus petition within fourteen (14) days after being
served with a copy thereof. Such party shall file with the
clerk of court, and serve on the magistrate judge and all
parties, written objections which shall specifically identify
the portions of the proposed findings, recommendations or
report to which objection is made and the basis for such
objections. The briefing requirements set forth in Local Rule
72.2 shall apply. A judge shall make a de novo determination
of those portions of the report or specified proposed
findings or recommendations to which objection is made and
may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The
judge, however, need conduct a new hearing only in his or her
discretion or where required by law, and ...