June 2017 Term
from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of
the State of Idaho, in and for Ada County. Hon. Cheri C.
Copsey, District Judge.
judgment of the district court is vacated, and this case is
H. Parnes, Ketchum, argued for appellant.
Jessica M. Lorello, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, argued
an appeal out of Ada County from a judgment dismissing a
petition for post-conviction relief after the district court
denied a motion to amend the petition to raise a claim that
petitioner, who had been sentenced to life without parole for
murdering his mother when he was a juvenile, was entitled to
be resentenced pursuant to the United States Supreme
Court's decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, ___
U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016). The district court denied the
motion to amend on the ground that Montgomery did
not apply to the petitioner because he had not been sentenced
to a mandatory fixed-life sentence and because, if
Montgomery did apply, the sentence would be upheld.
We vacate the judgment of dismissal, hold that the sentencing
was not in conformity with the requirements of
Montgomery, reverse the order denying the
petitioner's motion to amend, and remand this case for
January 24, 2007, sixteen-year-old Ethan Windom brutally
murdered his mother by repeatedly striking her head with a
club that he had fashioned by attaching weights to one end of
a dumbbell. After his arms tired from the weight, he then
stabbed her dead body repeatedly in the throat, chest, and
abdomen and finally thrust a knife into her exposed brain. He
pled guilty to murder in the second degree, and the district
court sentenced him to a determinate life sentence. This
Court affirmed that sentence on appeal. State v.
Windom, 150 Idaho 873, 253 P.3d 310 (2011).
25, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion
in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012),
which addressed whether state laws that required a mandatory
fixed life sentence for juveniles convicted of murder
violated the Eighth Amendment. The Court held that they did,
but it also stated that
a sentencer misses too much if he treats every child as an
adult. To recap: Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile
precludes consideration of his chronological age and its
hallmark features-among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and
failure to appreciate risks and consequences. It prevents
taking into account the family and home environment that
surrounds him-and from which he cannot usually extricate
himself-no matter how brutal or dysfunctional. It neglects
the circumstances of the homicide offense, including the
extent of his participation in the conduct and the way
familial and peer pressures may have affected him. . . . And
finally, this mandatory punishment disregards the possibility
of rehabilitation even when the circumstances most suggest
Id. at 477-78.
But given all we have said in Roper, Graham, and
this decision about children's diminished culpability and
heightened capacity for change, we think appropriate
occasions for sentencing juveniles to this harshest possible
penalty will be uncommon. That is especially so because of
the great difficulty we noted in Roper and
Graham of distinguishing at this early age between
"the juvenile offender whose crime reflects unfortunate
yet transient immaturity, and the rare juvenile offender
whose crime reflects irreparable corruption." Although
we do not foreclose a sentencer's ability to make that
judgment in homicide cases, we require it to take into
account how children are different, and how those differences
counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in
Id. at 479-80.
3, 2012, an attorney who did not represent Windom sent him a
letter at the correctional institution in which he was
housed. The attorney wrote:
You may have heard that the United States Supreme Court
recently decided that mandatory fixed-life sentences for
juveniles are unconstitutional. You do not have a mandatory
fixed life sentence. But, it is possible that Judge Copsey
did not consider all the factors that the Supreme Court says
courts should consider before she imposed your discretionary
fixed life sentence.
Therefore, you may want to challenge your sentence in court.
I have enclosed a form to fill out if you want to file a
federal habeas corpus petition. You need to file that
petition in the federal court in Boise no later than
September 19, 2012. You also might be able to file a state
post-conviction petition, but the deadline for that might
have been June 21, 2012. So you might be too late if you
haven't filed a state post-conviction petition already.
Finally, you might be able to file a Rule 35 motion to