United States District Court, D. Nebraska
ORDER UPON INITIAL REVIEW
F. Rossiter, Jr. United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court for initial review of Christopher
Garza's (“Garza”) Petition for a Writ of
Habeas Corpus (“petition”) under 28 U.S.C. §
2254 (Filing No. 1). Under § 2254, “a district
court shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas
corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the
judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in
custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties
of the United States.” Rule 4 of the Rules Governing
§ 2254 Cases requires the Court to conduct an initial
review of the petition and summarily dismiss it “[i]f
it plainly appears from the petition and any attached
exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to
relief.” Absent such dismissal, the Court “must
order the respondent to file an answer, motion, or other
response within a fixed time, or to take other action the
[Court] may order.”
January 18, 1991, a jury convicted Garza of first-degree
(felony) murder and use of a knife to commit a felony. Garza,
who was sixteen at the time of the offense, received a
mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for
the murder conviction and received a consecutive sentence of
6 2/3 to 20 years for the weapon conviction. State v.
Garza, 888 N.W.2d 526, 532 (Neb. 2016). The Nebraska
Supreme Court affirmed Garza's convictions and sentences
on direct appeal. State v. Garza, 492 N.W.2d 32, 50
2012, the United States Supreme Court held “that the
Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates
life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile
offenders.” Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460,
479 (2012). After the Nebraska Supreme Court determined
Miller applied retroactively, see State v.
Mantich, 842 N.W.2d 716, 731 (Neb. 2014), the sentencing
judge granted Garza's request for post-conviction relief
and held a comprehensive resentencing hearing.
Garza, 888 N.W.2d at 532-33. At the close of the
hearing, the judge sentenced Garza to 90 to 90 years on the
murder conviction and 6 2/3 to 20 years for the weapon
conviction to run consecutively. Id. at 533. The
judge informed Garza that unless he lost some good-time
credit, he would be eligible for parole upon serving 48 years
4 months and would be mandatorily discharged upon serving 55
timely appealed his sentence to the Nebraska Supreme Court,
arguing his sentence was excessive and violated his
constitutional rights. The Nebraska Supreme Court rejected
his arguments and affirmed his sentences. Garza petitioned
the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari,
which was denied on October 2, 2017. Garza v.
Nebraska, ___ U.S. ___, 138 S.Ct. 83 (2017).
now petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2254. As sole grounds for his
petition, Garza contends “he is being held in violation
of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual
punishment as he was a minor at the time of the offense and
was sentenced to a de facto life sentence without a finding
of irreparable corruption.” According to Garza,
“[t]his issue is important because states are split on
whether a lengthy term of years sentence is equivalent to a
life sentence for purposes of” the Eighth Amendment and
“whether a sentencing court must make a finding of
permanent incorrigibility before imposing a life or de facto
completed an initial review of Garza's petition and his
supporting documentation, the Court provisionally finds that
summary dismissal is not required at this time, and that the
respondent should answer or otherwise respond to the
petition. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED:
Clerk of Court shall serve copies of this order and the
petition to the respondent and the Nebraska Attorney General.
or before January 15, 2018, the respondent shall file a
response consisting of either an answer to the petition on
the merits of the claims and any affirmative defenses in the
manner contemplated by Rule 5 of the Rules Governing §
2254 Cases, or a motion for summary judgment pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The Clerk of Court shall
set a case-management deadline for this date.
Whether filing an answer or a motion for summary judgment,
the respondent shall file (1) a pleading entitled
“Designation of Relevant State Court Records, ”
describing in detail any records relevant to the petition,
and (2) copies of all records described in that designation.
Garza determines that the respondent's designation is
insufficient, he shall have ten days to file a motion
specifically requesting additional documents and explaining
the reasons the documents are relevant to his claims.
Whether the respondent files an answer or a motion for
summary judgment, Garza shall file any reply within thirty
days after ...