Bowling v. Director, Va. Dep’t of Corrs. (P)

The Virginia Parole Board didn’t violate the appellant’s Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment rights by not specifically considering age-related mitigating factors when it repeatedly denied him parole. The appellant was sentenced to life with parole when he was 17 years old.

The court declines to extend the Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence to juvenile parole proceedings and find that it is cruel and unusual punishment for a parole board to deny juvenile offenders parole without specifically considering age-related mitigating characteristics as a separate factor in the decision- making process. The protections announced in Miller v. Alabama and its lineage to sentences that are practically equivalent to life without parole have not yet reached a juvenile offender who has and will continue to receive parole consideration.

To the extent that Graham v. Florida and Miller require parole proceedings to provide juveniles a meaningful opportunity for release after sentencing, this court is not persuaded that the appellant’s parole proceedings fell below that standard. The Eighth Amendment promises juvenile offenders no further protections than those that the appellant has already received. The Supreme Court has suggested that states may remedy Miller violations by providing juvenile offenders the same protection that the appellant has already received: parole consideration.

As to the Fourteenth Amendment, contrary to the appellant’s argument, he has neither a constitutionally protected interest in reentering society as a mature adult nor in parole in Virginia. The Commonwealth has created a liberty interest in parole consideration. But to satisfy due process requirements, a parole board need only provide an offender an opportunity to be heard and a statement of reasons indicating why parole has been denied. The appellant’s parole proceedings satisfied those requirements.

Affirmed.

Bowling v. Director, Va. Dep’t of Corrs. (P), No. 18-6170, Apr. 2, 2019. 4th Cir. (Thacker) from WDVA at Roanoke (Kiser).



Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published

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