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State v. McClean

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

August 23, 2016

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
MICHAEL MCCLEAN

          Argued May 26, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Clifford, J. [judgment]; Alexander, J. [motion to correct].)

          Heather Clark, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Melissa Patterson, assistant state’s attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state’s attorney, and Michele C. Lukban and John F. Fahey, senior assistant state’s attorneys, for the appellee (state).

          Lavine, Beach and Alvord, Js.

          OPINION

          LAVINE, J.

         The defendant, Michael McClean, appeals from the trial court’s judgment of dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence. On appeal, the defendant claims that the court erred by dismissing his motion to correct an illegal sentence after concluding that his sentence did not violate the eighth amendment to the United States constitution, as explicated by Miller v. Alabama, __ U.S.__, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012).[1] We conclude that the trial court improperly determined that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the defendant’s motion, but correctly concluded that the defendant’s federal and state constitutional rights have not been violated. As we explain, the defendant’s sentence does not violate the constitutional sentencing parameters set forth in Miller. See State v. Logan, 160 Conn.App. 282, 287, 125 A.3d 581 (2015), cert. denied, 321 Conn. 906, 135 A.3d 279 (2016). The form of the judgment is improper, and we therefore reverse the judgment and remand the case with direction to render judgment denying the defendant’s motion to correct an illegal sentence. See, e.g., State v. Gemmell, 155 Conn.App. 789, 790, 110 A.3d 1234, cert. denied, 316 Conn. 913, 111 A.3d 886 (2015).

         The following facts are relevant to this appeal. ‘‘[O]n December 23, 1994, the [defendant] was arrested and charged with murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a). Pursuant to a plea agreement negotiated by his defense counsel . . . the [defendant] pleaded guilty to the murder charge under the Alford doctrine[2]on January 5, 1998. . . . In exchange for the petitioner’s guilty plea, the state recommended a sentence of thirty years incarceration and dropped additional charges and withdrew its request for a sentence enhancement.’’ (Footnote omitted.) McClean v. Commissioner of Correction, 103 Conn.App. 254, 255-56, 930 A.2d 693 (2007), cert. denied, 285 Conn. 913, 943 A.2d 473 (2008). The parties waived the presentence investigation report. ‘‘On March 20, 1998, the court [Clifford, J.] sentenced the [defendant] to thirty years incarceration in accordance with the plea agreement.’’ Id., 256.

         The defendant, who was initially self-represented, filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence on September 20, 2013. On March 26, 2014, the defendant’s public defender filed a motion to correct illegal disposition and a memorandum of law on behalf of the defendant. The defendant claimed that his sentence was imposed in an illegal manner because (1) he was not given an individualized sentencing hearing during which the court considered the mitigating factors of the defendant’s youth, as required by Miller v. Alabama, supra, 132 S.Ct. 2455; and (2) he will not be provided with a meaningful opportunity to obtain release on the basis of his demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation, as required by Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010).[3]

         The court, Alexander, J., heard oral argument on the motion on April 4, 2014. The court issued its memorandum of decision on July 23, 2014, dismissing the motion. It determined that the defendant’s sentence will expire when he is approximately forty-five years old. At that time in Connecticut, Graham and Miller applied only to mandatory life without parole sentences.[4] The court thus determined that ‘‘the defendant is not entitled to the relief sought, as it exceeds the jurisdiction of the court.’’

         In regard to the trial court’s jurisdiction, the defendant’s motion to correct contended that his sentence was imposed in an improper manner, namely, because it was imposed without following the procedures outlined in Miller. Thus, the defendant’s claim was properly raised by a motion to correct pursuant to Practice Book § 43-22. See State v. Williams-Bey, 167 Conn.App. 744, A.3d (2016). As we explained in Williams-Bey, ‘‘[t]he court’s conclusion that it could not provide the defendant a remedy did not implicate the court’s authority to determine whether the sentence had been imposed in an illegal manner.’’ Id., 761. As in Williams-Bey, however, it is clear from the court’s memorandum of decision that it considered the merits of the defendant’s constitutional claims. We conclude that the court properly concluded that the defendant’s sentence did not violate the eighth amendment or the constitution of Connecticut, albeit for a different reason. Accordingly, the proper disposition was for the court to deny, rather than to dismiss, the defendant’s motion to correct.

         The defendant’s constitutional claims are controlled by this court’s recent decision in State v. Logan, supra, 160 Conn.App. 282. In Logan, this court concluded that a sentence of thirty-one years imprisonment without the possibility of parole imposed on a juvenile offender does not violate the eighth amendment, as interpreted by Miller v. Alabama, supra, 132 S.Ct. 2455. State v. Logan, supra, 293. The defendant in the present case was sentenced to thirty years imprisonment without the possibility of parole. His sentence does not violate the constitutional parameters established in Miller. Furthermore, as we have stated, the defendant is now eligible for parole pursuant to General Statutes § 54-125a (f). See footnote 3 of this opinion.

         The form of the judgment is improper, the judgment is reversed and the case is remanded with direction to render judgment denying the ...


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