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Davis v. Bryan

decided: November 14, 1989.

ARTHUR DAVIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
KAY BRYAN AND RAYMOND LOPES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, Cabranes, Judge, granting defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissing plaintiff's § 1983 complaint alleging that he was improperly sentenced by a Connecticut state prison official.

Meskill, Pierce, and Mahoney, Circuit Judges.

Author: Pierce

PIERCE, Circuit Judge.

In this § 1983 action, plaintiff-appellant Arthur Davis alleges that he is entitled, under Connecticut law, to be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of from ten to twenty-five years for each of six consecutive life sentences which he is presently serving. Davis asserts that his due process rights were violated when a state prison official determined that his "minimum sentence" on each count was twenty-five years; he claims that he is entitled to have a judge make this determination.

In an earlier appeal, we reversed an order of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut which granted a motion for summary judgment by the defendants and we remanded the matter. Davis v. Bryan, 810 F.2d 42 (2d Cir. 1987). Upon an expanded record, the district court, Jose A. Cabranes, Judge, has granted summary judgment. Davis appeals from this determination and, since we find that Davis is not entitled to be sentenced to a minimum term of less then twenty-five years, we affirm the district court.

BACKGROUND

While familiarity with our prior decision is assumed, we restate the undisputed facts.

On November 16, 1966, Davis was convicted in Connecticut by a three-judge state court of six counts of murder in the first degree. The next day he was sentenced to death pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-10.*fn1 The conviction and sentence were affirmed after direct appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court. State v. Davis, 158 Conn. 341, 260 A.2d 587 (1969) (" Davis I ").

In 1969, Connecticut revised its penal code, including the statutes regarding sentencing. Pub. Act No. 69-828 (codified, as amended, at Conn.Gen.Stat.Ann. § 53a-1 et seq. (West 1985)). The revised penal code was expressly made applicable to crimes committed on or after October 1, 1971. Conn.Gen.Stat.Ann. § 53a-2 (West 1985). In 1972, § 53a-35, adopted as part of this revision, provided that murder was punishable with either the death penalty or an indeterminate sentence, imposed by the court, consisting of a minimum term of from ten to twenty-five years and a maximum term of life in prison. Pub. Act No. 71-871, § 13 (codified, as amended, at Conn.Gen.Stat.Ann. § 53a-35(b), (c) (West 1985)).

In the wake of Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 33 L. Ed. 2d 346, 92 S. Ct. 2726 (1972), the Supreme Court granted certiorari in over 100 cases in which the death penalty had been imposed. This included appellant's case. See Davis v. Connecticut, 408 U.S. 935, 92 S. Ct. 2856, 33 L. Ed. 2d 750 (1972) (" Davis II "). In each case, the Supreme Court vacated the imposition of the death penalty and remanded for further proceedings. See 408 U.S. 933-40 (1972) (citing Stewart v. Massachusetts, 408 U.S. 845, 33 L. Ed. 2d 744, 92 S. Ct. 2845 (1972)).

The Connecticut Supreme Court, in turn, remanded the case to the Superior Court "for further proceedings and the imposition of penalty." State v. Davis, 163 Conn. 642, 316 A.2d 512, 512 (1972) (" Davis III "). On November 16, 1972, a three-judge panel of the Superior Court resentenced Davis to consecutive terms of life imprisonment on each of the six counts of murder. The mittimus transmitted to the Commissioner of Corrections, which is the only evidence of the re-sentencing proceedings that has been produced, does not state the statutory basis for these "straight life" sentences.

In 1980, the Connecticut sentencing statute was again revised, this time to provide for definite sentences for felonies committed on or after July 1, 1981. Pub. Act No. 80-442, § 10 (codified at Conn.Gen.Stat.Ann. § 53a-35a (West 1985)). In conjunction with this revision, § 53a-35(a) was amended to provide that indeterminate sentencing was required for "any felony committed prior to July 1, 1981." Pub. Act No. 80-442, § 9.

In December 1984, the Superior Court held that all Connecticut prisoners serving life sentences were entitled to benefit from a 1980 amendment to Conn.Gen.Stat. § 54-125*fn2 which eliminated a restriction on the amount of good time credit they could earn. Ray v. Warden, No. 296657 (Super.Ct. Dec. 7, 1984). In applying the amendment retroactively, the court relied on the application of Conn.Gen.Stat. § 18-7 to prisoners sentenced "prior to October 1, 1976." Id., slip op. at 4.

In January 1985, defendant-appellee Kay Bryan, a records supervisor at the Connecticut Correctional Institution at Somers, recalculated Davis' sentence time as part of her effort to identify prisoners who could benefit from the Ray decision. In the course of calculating appellant's parole eligibility Bryan treated the ...


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