Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Michael
O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Jean Burdorf, Assistant
County Attorney, Brittany D. Lawonn, Assistant County
Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota for appellant.
L. Moriearty, Child Advocacy and Juvenile Justice Clinic,
University of Minnesota Law School, Minneapolis, Minnesota;
and Bradford Colbert, Legal Assistance to Minnesota
Prisoners, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.
Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), does not
limit a district court's authority to impose consecutive
sentences of life imprisonment with the possibility of
release upon a juvenile offender.
Jackson v. State, 883 N.W.2d 272 (Minn. 2016), does
not limit a district court's authority to impose
consecutive sentences of life imprisonment with the
possibility of release upon a juvenile offender.
State of Minnesota challenges a Hennepin County District
Court order that specifies that Brian Lee Flowers's
sentences shall run concurrently. Flowers, a juvenile at the
time of his offense, was convicted of two counts of
first-degree premeditated murder in 2009 and sentenced to two
mandatory terms of life imprisonment without the possibility
of parole. Six years later, he petitioned for postconviction
relief, arguing that his sentences violated the rule
announced in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012).
The district court granted Flowers's petition and asked
the parties to brief the issue of resentencing. Flowers
argued in part that the court's authority to impose
consecutive life sentences with the possibility of release
after 30 years was limited by both Miller and our
decision in Jackson v. State, 883 N.W.2d 272 (Minn.
2016). The district court imposed two concurrent life
sentences with the possibility of release after 30 years.
Because neither Miller nor Jackson limited
the court's authority to impose consecutive sentences in
this case, we reverse and remand for resentencing.
2009, a Hennepin County jury found Brian Lee Flowers guilty
of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, Minn.
Stat. §§ 609.05, subd. 1, 609.185(a)(1) (2016), and
two counts of first-degree felony murder, Minn. Stat.
§§ 609.05, subd. 1, 609.185(a)(3). Flowers was 16
years old at the time of the offense. Flowers, along with a
co-defendant, was convicted of murdering Katricia Daniels and
her son, Robert Shephard. Crime scene evidence showed that
the two victims had been brutally killed, each suffering
numerous stab wounds and blunt force trauma. Because the
then-existing statutory scheme mandated the imposition of
life imprisonment without the possibility of release (LWOR),
the district court did not order a presentence investigation
(PSI) or hold a contested sentencing hearing. Before imposing
the sentences, however, the court did consider several
statements, including statements by Flowers and a relative,
who spoke on Flowers's behalf, in accordance with Minn.
R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 3. Flowers was sentenced to two
consecutive life terms of imprisonment without the
possibility of release. We affirmed Flowers's convictions
on direct appeal. State v. Flowers, 788 N.W.2d 120,
122 (Minn. 2010).
2015, Flowers filed a petition for postconviction relief,
relying on Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 480
(2012). Miller held that mandatory LWOR sentences
for juvenile offenders violated the Eighth Amendment to the
United States Constitution. 567 U.S. at 479. Although
Flowers's conviction was final before Miller was
decided, Flowers was entitled to retroactive application of
the Miller rule under Montgomery v.
Louisiana, __U.S.__, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016). The district
court granted Flowers's petition and scheduled a
Miller hearing to allow the parties to present
evidence about whether Flowers fell within the category of
rare juvenile offenders for whom a LWOR sentence was not
cruel and unusual punishment because their crimes reflected
the parties were preparing for the Miller hearing,
we decided Jackson v. State, 883 N.W.2d 272 (Minn.
2016). In Jackson, the juvenile offender filed a
petition for postconviction relief challenging the district
court's imposition of a mandatory LWOR sentence for a
single conviction of first-degree murder. We concluded that
the rule articulated in Miller, and later clarified
in Montgomery, had been violated because the court
imposed a mandatory sentence of LWOR without considering
"whether Jackson fell within the vast majority of
juvenile offenders whose crimes reflect 'transient
immaturity, ' or whether Jackson was one of the
'rare' juveniles whose crimes reflect
'irreparable corruption' or 'permanent
incorrigibility.' " Id. at 279. We also
concluded that there was no fair or meaningful way that the
district court could make the constitutionally mandated
determination that Jackson was irreparably corrupt because
such a determination required an evaluation of Jackson's
"mindset and characteristics from many years ago."
Id. at 280 (observing that the defendant's LWOR
sentence was imposed 10 years prior). As a result, our remand
order did not direct the district court to hold a
Miller hearing. Id. at 282. Instead, we
directed the district court to impose a sentence of life
imprisonment with the possibility of release after 30
reviewing our decision in Jackson, the district
court informed the parties that the scheduled Miller
hearing would no longer take place because "the
[Minnesota] Supreme Court has said that basically courts
can't do that." Based on Jackson, the
parties agreed that Flowers could not be resentenced to LWOR,
but instead had to be resentenced to two life terms with the
possibility of release after 30 years. The parties disagreed
about whether the sentences should run consecutively or
concurrently. According to Flowers, the court's authority
to impose consecutive life sentences was limited by
Miller and Jackson. Citing State v.
Ali (Ali I), 855 N.W.2d 235 (Minn. 2014), the
State argued the court could impose discretionary consecutive
sentences irrespective of Miller and
Jackson. The State emphasized that "proof of
irreparable corruption" was not constitutionally
required before a court could impose consecutive sentences
for multiple convictions of first-degree murder involving
more than one victim. Instead, the relevant inquiry was
whether, when compared to past sentences imposed on other
offenders, consecutive sentences were commensurate with
Flowers's culpability and criminality. See State v.
Warren, 592 N.W.2d 440, 451-52 (Minn. 1999)
("[G]uided by past sentences imposed on other
offenders[, ]" "we will consider whether
consecutive sentences are 'commensurate with culpability
and not an exaggeration of defendant's criminality.'
district court resentenced Flowers to two concurrent life
sentences with the possibility of release after 30