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Week 14 (2019)

Week of April 1, 2019 through April 5, 2019

United States v. Riley (Traxler 4/3/2019): The Fourth Circuit held that supervised release revocation proceedings are not criminal proceedings for constitutional purposes. Thus, introduction of unwarned admissions made by an individual to his probation officer did not violate his Fifth Amendment rights, and the government was not required to present evidence to corroborate the individual’s statements. The court noted that the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is a fundamental trial right, but explained that revocation of parole is not part of a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court’s judgment in allowing the statements as evidence of a violation of supervised release. Full Opinion.

Highlight Case

Bowling v. Director, No. 18-6170 

Decided: April 2, 2019 

The Fourth Circuit held that juvenile-specific parole considerations are not required by the Eighth Amendment for juvenile offenders sentenced to life with parole. The Court further held that, even though parole was denied, due process was satisfied by Virginia Parole Board proceedings because Virginia law only provides a right to parole consideration, not a right to release on parole. 

In 1988, Appellant Bowling was sentenced to life with parole when he was 17 years old after being convicted of capital murder, robbery, marijuana possession, and two counts of use of a firearm in connection with his role in a botched robbery. In 2005, Bowling became eligible for parole and his eligibility has been determined by the Virginia Parole Board (Parole Board) every year since. Each year the Parole Board declined to grant Bowling parole after reviewing his case and provided reasons for its denial. On November 16 2016, Bowling filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus asserting that the Parole Board violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to specifically consider age-related mitigating characteristics in as a separate factor in the decision-making process. After Bowling’s petitions for writ of habeas corpus were denied and dismissed by the Virginia Supreme Court and the Western District of Virginia, respectively, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a certificate of appealability on both claims. 

The Court noted that the Supreme Court has found that the application of certain punitive measures to juvenile offenders violates the Eighth Amendment, specifically holding that the mandatory imposition of life without parole sentences on juvenile offenders is cruel and unusual. 

Although the Court acknowledged that children are constitutionally different than adults for the purpose of sentencing, it declined to extend Eighth Amendment protections beyond sentencing proceedings for juvenile sentenced to life with parole. The Court reasoned that, because a juvenile offender who has and will continue to receive parole consideration is provided a meaningful opportunity for release after sentencing, the Eighth Amendment is not violated when the Parole Board considers various other factors which incorporate the offender’s age. In considering Bowling’s Fourteenth Amendment claim, the Court reasoned that the Parole Board had satisfied due process requirements by its parole procedures because Virginia law provides for a liberty interest in parole consideration, not a claim to release on parole, and the Parole Board’s procedures were satisfactory.

Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment granting the Commonwealth of Virginia’s motion to dismiss.

Full Opinion.

Annie Day Bame