Kuntrell Jackson

Victim: Laurie Ann Troup, 28

Age at time of murder: 14

Crime location: Blytheville 

Crime date: November 18, 1999

Partner in crime: Derrick Shields and one other

Weapon: Sawed-off shotgun 

Murder method: Shot to the face

Convictions: Capital felony murder and aggravated robbery

Sentence: Life without parole (LWOP) later reduced

Incarceration status: Released


Jackson was 14 when he was an accomplice in a robbery of a video store in which Laurie Troup was murdered. Jackson stayed outside while two other offenders entered the store and attempted to rob Laurie at gunpoint. Jackson then entered the store where Laurie was being attacked. When Laurie threatened to call police, Shields shot her in the face and murdered her. Jackson’s appeal was the subject of the Jackson v Hobbs case before the US Supreme Court. One of the issues at trial was what Jackson meant when he told the victim that they were not playing around in this robbery. Jackson was re-sentenced and released and is now an activist and speaker. 


Miller v. Alabama


In November 1999, petitioner Kuntrell Jackson, then 14 years old, and two other boys decided to rob a video store. En route to the store, Jackson learned that one of the boys, Derrick Shields, was carrying a sawed-off shotgun in his coat sleeve. Jackson decided to stay outside when the two other boys entered the store. Inside, Shields pointed the gun at the store clerk, Laurie Troup, and demanded that she “give up the money.” Jackson v. State, 359 Ark. 87, 89194 S.W.3d 757, 759 (2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). Troup refused. A few moments later, Jackson went into the store to find Shields continuing to demand money. At trial, the parties disputed whether Jackson warned Troup that “[w]e ain’t playin’,” or instead told his friends, “I thought you all was playin’.” Id., at 91, 194 S.W.3d, at 760 (internal quotation marks omitted). When Troup threatened to call the police, Shields shot and killed her. The three boys fled empty-handed. See id., at 89–92, 194 S.W.3d, at 758–760.

Arkansas law gives prosecutors discretion to charge 14–year–olds as adults when they are alleged to have committed certain serious offenses. See Ark.Code Ann. § 9–27–318(c)(2) (1998). The prosecutor here exercised that authority by charging Jackson with capital felony murder and aggravated robbery. Jackson moved to transfer the case to juvenile court, but after considering the alleged facts of the crime, a psychiatrist’s examination, and Jackson’s juvenile arrest history (shoplifting and several incidents of car theft), the trial court denied the motion, and an appellate court affirmed. See Jackson v. State, No. 02–535, 2003 WL 193412, *1 (Ark.App., Jan. 29, 2003) ; §§ 9–27–318(d), (e). A jury later convicted Jackson of both crimes. Noting that “in view of [the] verdict, there’s only one possible punishment,” the judge sentenced Jackson to life without parole. App. in No. 10–9647, p. 55 (hereinafter Jackson App.); see Ark.Code Ann. § 5–4–104(b) (1997) (“A defendant convicted of capital murder or treason shall be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without parole”). Jackson did not challenge the sentence on appeal, and the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the convictions. See 359 Ark. 87194 S.W.3d 757.

Following Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551125 S.Ct. 1183161 L.Ed.2d 1 (2005), in which this Court invalidated the death penalty for all juvenile offenders under the age of 18, Jackson filed a state petition for habeas corpus. He argued, based on Roper ‘s reasoning, that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a 14–year–old also violates the Eighth Amendment. The circuit court rejected that argument and granted the State’s motion to dismiss. See Jackson App. 72–76. While that ruling was on appeal, this Court held in Graham v. Florida that life without parole violates the Eighth Amendment when imposed on juvenile nonhomicide offenders. After the parties filed briefs addressing that decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Jackson’s petition. See Jackson v. Norris, 2011 Ark. 49378 S.W.3d 103. The majority found that Roper and Graham were “narrowly tailored” to their contexts: “death-penalty cases involving a juvenile and life-imprisonment-without-parole cases for nonhomicide offenses involving a juvenile.” Id., at 5, 378 S.W.3d, at 106. Two justices dissented. They noted that Jackson was not the shooter and that “any evidence of intent to kill was severely lacking.” Id., at 10, 378 S.W.3d, at 109 (Danielson, J., dissenting). And they argued that Jackson’s mandatory sentence ran afoul of Graham ‘s admonition that ” ‘[a]n offender’s age is relevant to the Eighth Amendment, and criminal procedure laws that fail to take defendants’ youthfulness into account at all would be flawed.’ ” Id., at 10–11, 378 S.W.3d, at 109 (quoting Graham, 560 U.S., at 76130 S.Ct., at 2031).

Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 465-67 (2012)

Kuntrell Jackson v. State of Arkansas

Kuntrell Jackson was charged in the criminal division of circuit court with capital murder. Appellant was fourteen years old at the time the offense was allegedly committed. This is an interlocutory appeal from an order denying appellant’s motion to transfer his case to juvenile court.

On November 18, 1999, Laurie Troup was working at Movie Magic, a video store in Blytheville, when appellant and two other juveniles entered the store and demanded that she give them money. When Troup refused to hand over the money, she was shot in the face with a sawed-off shotgun. The juveniles fled without taking any money.

The juveniles were apprehended in March 2001, and all three gave incriminating statements to police. According to their statements, which were introduced at the transfer hearing, appellant and his cohorts planned to rob the video store because they wantedmoney. Appellant contended that one of his accomplices supplied the weapon and fired the fatal shot and that he was the lookout.

In addition to the juveniles’ statements to police, the circuit judge was also presented with appellant’s juvenile arrest history at the transfer hearing. In February 2000, appellant was adjudicated delinquent for shoplifting, stealing two cars, and attempting to steal a third car. While on probation less than a month later, appellant was arrested for committing two counts of auto theft. In October 2000, appellant was adjudicated delinquent for theft by receiving a vehicle, criminal trespass, and fleeing. He was committed to the Division of Youth Services as a serious offender.

The results of a forensic psychiatric evaluation were also considered by the circuit judge. The psychologist found that appellant appeared to understand the charges against him and found no psychiatric impairment that would have caused him to be unable to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law at the time of the offense.

At the transfer hearing, Jack Wallace, a juvenile intake officer, testified that there was no rehabilitation program available in the juvenile system at that time in the event appellant was found guilty of capital murder.

In determining whether to retain jurisdiction or to transfer the case, the circuit judge must consider the following factors pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-318(g) (Repl. 2002):

(1) The seriousness of the alleged offense and whether the protection of society requires prosecution as an extended juvenile jurisdiction offender or in the criminal division of circuit court;

(2) Whether the alleged offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated, or willful manner;

(3) Whether the offense was against a person or property, with greater weight being given to offenses against persons, especially if personal injury resulted;

(4) The culpability of the juvenile, including the level of planning and participation in the alleged offense;

(5) The previous history of the juvenile, including whether the juvenile had been adjudicated a juvenile offender and, if so, whether the offenses were against persons or property, and any other previous history of antisocial behavior or patterns of physical violence;

(6) The sophistication or maturity of the juvenile as determined by consideration of the juvenile’s home, environment, emotional attitude, pattern of living, or desire to be treated as an adult;

(7) Whether there are facilities or programs available to the judge of the juvenile division of circuit court which are likely to rehabilitate the juvenile prior to the expiration of the juvenile division of circuit court’s jurisdiction;

(8) Whether the juvenile acted alone or was part of a group in the commission of the alleged offense;

(9) Written reports and other materials relating to the juvenile’s mental, physical, educational, and social history; and

(10) Any other factors deemed relevant by the judge.

In its order denying appellant’s motion to transfer, the circuit court relied on the first nine factors. At the hearing, the circuit judge noted the seriousness of the offense and gave due consideration to the fact that the offense involved a firearm, was for pecuniary gain, and endangered the life of another. The circuit court’s decision on whether to transfer the case to juvenile court will not be reversed unless the decision is clearly erroneous. Witherspoon v. State, 74 Ark. App. 151, 46 S.W.3d 549 (2001).