United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
CHAUNCEY J. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
ADRIANNE BENNETT, Defendant.
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge.
J. Jackson, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, commenced
this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff
names Adrianne Bennett, who is the Chairperson of the
Virginia Parole Board ("Board"), as the sole
defendant. Plaintiff argues that he experiences cruel and
unusual punishment by being denied a meaningful opportunity
to obtain parole release, in violation of the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, to which
Plaintiff responded out of time.After reviewing the record,
the court grants Defendant's motion for summary judgment.
had committed multiple felonies, including homicide, before
January 1, 1995, and while sixteen years old. He was
convicted of, inter alia, first-degree murder and
sentenced on November 28, 2001, to life imprisonment for that
crime. Plaintiff has been eligible for
discretionary parole, pursuant to Virginia Code §
53.1-165.1, since October 26, 2007.
at least 2016, Plaintiff has requested that the Board
consider his status as a juvenile offender and his developing
maturity as specific factors in support of parole release.
Plaintiff has explained to the Board that he has remained
infraction free in prison for many years, achieved
educational milestones, maintained a prison job for many
years in different facilities, been housed in a
"Positive Behavior Unit, " and been married since
February 21, 2014.
has been denied parole release every year he has been
reviewed. In 2017, the Board explained its denial by noting
the serious nature and circumstances of his crimes, that
release would diminish the seriousness of his crimes, that he
is still a risk to the community. Plaintiff concludes, based
on the repeated denials, that he will have a "de facto
sentence of life without parole." As relief, Plaintiff
wants the Board be compelled to specifically consider
"juvenile offender status" as a factor for parole
Board relies on its "Parole Decision Factors"
("Factors") to determine parole release. The
Factors help the Board decide the probability that an inmate
will comply with conditions of release and lead a law-abiding
life in the community. To that end, the Factors require
consideration of: a release plan; family and community
resources; any prior experience while on supervised release;
changes in motivations and behaviors; institutional behavior;
the time already served for an imposed sentence; the crime;
overall criminal history record; and risk to the community.
The Board has the discretion to deny parole release if it
does not have sufficient confidence in an inmate's
ability to succeed or does not believe parole release would
serve the interests of society and the inmate.
is entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings, the
disclosed materials on file, and any affidavits show that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts are those necessary to
establish the elements of a party's cause of action.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists if, in
viewing admissible evidence and all reasonable inferences
drawn therefrom in a light most favorable to the non-moving
party, a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for
the non-movant. Id. The moving party has the burden
of showing - "that is, pointing out to the district
court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett. 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant
satisfies this burden, then the non-movant must set forth
specific facts that demonstrate the existence of a genuine
dispute of fact for trial. Id. at 322-24. A party is
entitled to summary judgment if the admissible evidence as a
whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find in
favor of the non-movant. Williams v. Griffin, 952
F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991). "Mere unsupported
speculation ... is not enough to defeat a summary judgment
motion." Ennis v. Nat'l Ass'n of Bus. &
Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995). A
plaintiff cannot use a response to a motion for summary
judgment to amend or correct a complaint challenged by the
motion for summary judgment. Cloaninger v. McDevitt,
555 F.3d 324, 336 (4th Cir. 2009).
principally relies on Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S.
48, 68 (2010), and Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460,
465 (2012), as the mandatory precedent requiring the Board to
specifically consider his juvenile offender status. The court
finds that neither Graham nor Miller
controls and that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.
held that the Eighth Amendment requires states to provide a
juvenile offender convicted of a nonhomicide offense
"some meaningful opportunity to obtain release [from
prison] based on demonstrated maturity and
rehabilitation." Graham, 560 U.S. at 75.
Plaintiff was convicted of, inter alia, first-degree
homicide, and thus; Graham does not apply
held that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme
that mandates a life sentence without possibility of parole
for juveniles convicted of homicide offenses.
Miller, 567 U.S. 489. While Plaintiff may have been
a juvenile convicted of a homicide offense, he cannot
establish that he was sentenced to mandatory life and without
a possibility of parole. See id. at 476 (noting
mandatory sentencing statutes, "by their nature,
preclude a sentencer from taking account of an offender's
age and the wealth of characteristics and circumstances
attendant to it"). Virginia did not mandate a mandatory
life sentence, Jones v. Commonwealth, 293 Va. 29,
40-42, 795 S.E.2d 705, 711-12 (2017), and Plaintiff
acknowledges he is eligible for parole. See Montgomery v.
Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718, 737 (2016) ("A State may
remedy a Miller violation by permitting juvenile
homicide offenders to be considered for parole, rather than
by resentencing them.").
asks whether it would be better for the Factors to
specifically consider his development since committing crimes
as a juvenile. However, neither Graham nor
Miller compels an answer to that question through
the lens of the Eighth Amendment, and Plaintiffs relief lies
with Virginia's executive and legislative officials.