Cases & Deals

Jones Day wins resentencing for juvenile sentenced to life without parole

Client(s) Ross, Randy D.

A team from Jones Day Dallas and Jones Day Washington prevailed in challenging the constitutionality of two sentences of life without parole imposed on a minor. Randy Ross, now 34, was sentenced in 1998 for crimes committed while he was only 16 years old. Following the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decisions in Miller v. Alabama (2013) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016) recognizing that juveniles must be treated differently than adults under the Eighth Amendment, the Jones Day team successfully sought a petition of habeas corpus from the Western District of Virginia, where Mr. Jones is incarcerated.

The win is groundbreaking for several reasons. First, Mr. Ross is the first inmate in the Western District of Virginia to prevail on a Miller claim and one of the first in Virginia generally, after several Virginia courts have rejected similar petitions. Second, Mr. Ross's petition required persuading a federal court that Virginia's sentencing framework violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, even after recent decisions from the Virginia Supreme Court purported to uphold the statutory scheme. Third, only 1% of all habeas petitions are granted, reflecting the rarity of a complete habeas win.

Mr. Ross has been incarcerated for 18 years, and during that time has earned his GED, rekindled relationships with his family, and has been an exemplary inmate. Due to the Jones Day team's efforts, Mr. Ross will be resentenced in a Virginia state court later this year, and now has a chance to be released from prison in his lifetime.

The Jones Day team was led by partner Jennifer Swize (Washington) and associates Tara Zurawski (Washington) and Tom York (Dallas).

Memorandum Opinion, Ross v. Fleming, Civil No. 6:13-cv-00034, Dkt. No 35 (W.D. Va. June 16, 2016); Order, Ross v. Fleming, Civil No. 6:13-cv-00034, Dkt. No. 41 (W.D. Va. Aug. 30, 2016).