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Criminal procedure — Illegal sentence — Eighth Amendment

This case is before us on appeal from an order of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County denying the motion to correct illegal sentence filed by appellant, Timothy Bell. In 1994, Bell entered an Alford plea to first-degree rape and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence.1 He was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree rape and twenty years’ imprisonment for the handgun offense. Bell was fifteen years old when he committed the crimes. Following the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, __ U.S. __, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), Bell filed a motion to correct what he alleged was an illegal sentence. Bell asserted that his sentence was unconstitutional pursuant to recent Supreme Court precedent addressing life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders. The circuit court denied Bell’s motion. Bell noted a timely appeal. This Court stayed Bell’s appeal pending the decision of the Court of Appeals in Carter v. State, No. 54, Sept. Term, 2017; Bowie v. State, No. 55, Sept. Term, 2017; and McCullough v. State, No. 56, Sept. Term, 2017, because the cases raised issues relating to whether a life sentence with the possibility of parole constituted an unconstitutional de facto life without parole sentence. On August 29, 2018, the Court of Appeals issued a consolidated opinion in Carter v. State, 461 Md. 295 (2018). The opinion resolved the cases of Carter, Bowie, and McCullough. Following the issuance of the Carter opinion, the stay was lifted in Bell’s appeal and the appeal proceeded. In this appeal, Bell presents one question, which we set forth verbatim. Is Mr. Bell’s sentence unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment and the Maryland Declaration of Rights Articles 16 and 25, and thus illegal? For the reasons explained herein, we …

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