LEWIS v. WOLFE et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE HARVEY BARTLE, III ON 5/17/17. 5/18/17 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
ANTHONY RASHAN LEWIS
WILLIAMS J. WOLFE, et al.
RODNEY LEE WALTON
LOUIS FOLINO, et al.
May 17, 2017
Before the court are the motions of respondents “to
alter judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
The subjects of respondents’ motions are two orders of
this court dated March 30, 2017.
In those orders, this court
conditionally granted the petitions of Anthony Rashan Lewis and
Rodney Lee Walton for writs of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 and ordered petitioners released from custody on July 31,
2017 unless they are resentenced on or before that date.
the March 30, 2017 Orders in Lewis v. Wolfe, No. 13-7269
(E.D. Pa.) and Walton v. Folino, No. 13-7689 (E.D. Pa.), and the
April 13, 2017 Memorandum in those cases, 2017 WL 1354938
1. Rule 59(e) provides, “A motion to alter or amend a judgment
must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the
judgment.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e).
At the time of the crimes committed by petitioners,
they were juveniles.
They received life sentences without the
possibility of parole in 1997 from the Court of Common Pleas of
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Those mandatory sentences are
now unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment as a result
of the decisions of the Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama, 132
S. Ct. 2455 (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718
(2016), which made Miller retroactive. 2
Respondents now belatedly urge this court to vacate
its March 30, 2017 orders and dismiss as moot the petitions of
Lewis and Walton.
They argue that the petitioners no longer had
live cases or controversies when the court entered those orders.
Respondents contend that the April 13, 2016 orders of the Common
Pleas Court of Lancaster County granted petitioners’
post-conviction petitions and thus vacated petitioners’
The order of the Common Pleas Court
states, with respect to Lewis:
2. The Supreme Court of the United States held in Miller that
it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against
cruel and unusual punishments to impose a mandatory life
sentence without the possibility of parole on a person who was a
juvenile at the time of the commission of the crime. 132 S. Ct.
The Eighth Amendment provides: “Excessive bail shall
not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and
unusual punishments inflicted.” U.S. Const. amend. VIII. The
prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments applies to the
states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660, 666 (1962).
AND NOW, this 13th day of April 2016, upon
consideration for post conviction collateral
relief of Defendant Anthony Lewis, and the
Commonwealth’s response thereto, it is
hereby ORDERED that said petition is
GRANTED, and Defendant shall be re-sentenced
on November 2, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. in
Courtroom No. 8. It is further ORDERED that
the Sheriff of Lancaster County is directed
to transport Defendant from his place of
incarceration to the Lancaster County Prison
at least five (5) days before the hearing
and to return his [sic] after the hearing.
Commonwealth v. Lewis, No. 1947-1996 (Pa. Ct. C.P. Lancaster
Cty., April 13, 2016); see also Commonwealth v. Walton, No.
1945-1996 (Pa. Ct. C.P. Lancaster Cty., April 13, 2016). 3
Petitioners counter that the state court’s April 13,
2016 orders did not vacate the unconstitutional sentences.
maintain that the orders merely granted petitioners’ state
post-conviction petitions and scheduled hearings that would
likely vacate the unconstitutional sentences and impose
The plain language of the orders of the Court of
Common Pleas of Lancaster County grants petitioners’ state
applications for habeas relief, sets dates for resentencing, and
arranges transportation for petitioners to and from the
On their face the orders do not state, as
respondents argue, that the sentences are vacated.
3. The order with respect to Walton is identical except that it
names Rodney Walton as the defendant and schedules his
resentencing for November 1, 2016.
respondents’ contention that the orders vacated petitioners’
unconstitutional sentences is incorrect.
Even if, as respondents argue, the state court orders
vacated the petitioners’ sentences, the later May 17, 2016 order
of the Common Pleas Court prevented petitioners’ resentencing
hearings from occurring, as required under Miller and
That order stated: “AND NOW this 17th day of May,
2016, upon consideration of the Commonwealth’s motion for Stay,
it is hereby ORDERED that further proceedings on Defendant’s
PCRA Petition and re-sentencing is [sic] STAYED pending the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Commonwealth v. Batts,
-- A.3d --, 2016 WL 1575127 (Pa. 2016) (mem.).” 4
Gonzalez, No. 1948-1996 (Pa. Ct. Comm. Pleas, May 17, 2016). 5
Montgomery, as noted above, applied retroactively the
substantive constitutional rule of Miller that sentencing
schemes for juveniles that required mandatory life imprisonment
without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional.
S. Ct. at 732.
Montgomery described the procedural aspect of
Miller prescribed by the Supreme Court:
4. Argument took place in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in
Batts on December 7, 2016. Commonwealth v. Batts, No. 45 MAP
2016, at *9 (Pa. April 19, 2016). No decision has yet been
5. One order was entered with respect to four co-defendants:
Aramis Gonzalez, Rodney Lee Walton, Clarence Laudenberger, and
Anthony Rashan Lewis.
To be sure, Miller’s holding has a
procedural requirement. Miller requires a
sentencer to consider a juvenile offender’s
youth and attendant characteristics before
determining that life without parole is a
proportionate sentence. . . . A hearing
where youth and its attendant
characteristics are considered as sentencing
factors is necessary to separate those
juveniles who may be sentenced to life
without parole from those who may not. The
hearing does not replace but rather gives
effect to Miller’s substantive holding that
life without parole is an excessive sentence
for children whose crimes reflect transient
Id. at 734-35 (internal quotations and citations omitted).
Thus under Miller and Montgomery, Lewis and Walton are
entitled to a hearing in which “youth and its attendant
characteristics” are considered as sentencing factors.
This hearing is necessary to give effect to Miller’s
Regardless of the nature of the orders of
the Common Pleas Court, the fact remains that petitioners have
not yet had their resentencing hearings as required by the
The stay of resentencing proceedings imposed by the
May 17, 2016 orders of the Court of Common Pleas effectively
withholds the relief to which petitioners are entitled under
Miller and Montgomery.
Merely vacating a sentence and holding
the petitioners for well over a year without resentencing is in
violation of the rulings of the United States Supreme Court.
respondents are correct that this federal court is now without
jurisdiction, state courts could circumvent with impunity what
the Supreme Court commands.
Notably absent from respondents’
briefing is any citation of case law supporting their position
that this court was without jurisdiction to enter its March 30,
In sum, Miller and Montgomery dictate that the
petitioners must be afforded resentencing hearings without
Contrary to the unsubstantiated position of respondents,
we cannot stand idly by while the mandate of the United States
Supreme Court is being ignored.
As we have previously stated,
it is time to get on with these resentencings.
Accordingly, the motions of respondents to alter
judgment will be denied.
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