U.S. District Court Grants Compassionate Release for Defendant Age 22 at the Time of His Offenses

Above: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia — Image Source: vaed.uscourts.gov

On December 17, 2020, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted the compassionate release petition of Montra Owen. Owen, initially sentenced to more than 63 years in prison, was released after 16 and a half years due to his youth at the time of his offenses and his rehabilitation since them.

In 2002 and 2003, Owen and his six co-defendants committed 29 armed robberies in Virginia. Owen pleaded guilty to several counts of robbery and firearm offenses and was sentenced to 762 months, which was later reduced to 420 months. He was projected to be released in November of 2033.

Owen filed a motion for compassionate release in July of 2020, which was denied. He filed a motion for reconsideration because the court did not consider his sentence disparity argument.

Owen argued that his convictions were “stacked” before the policy of stacking was eliminated, and therefore he should be resentenced. The U.S. Court of Appeals agreed, both because of legal precedent and because of Owen’s history and record of rehabilitation. The court cited Owen’s education and behavior while incarcerated, stating that his “clear acceptance of responsibility, independent of the actions of his co-defendants… gives the Court optimism that he will fulfill the balance of the restitution order efficiently upon release.”

Further, the court found that Owen “is clearly a different person at 39 years old than he was at his involvement in the instant offense at age 22.” Although he “was not a juvenile at the time of his offenses and principles of juvenile law certainly do not apply to his unjustifiable actions and the resulting sentence[,]” the court found that he had demonstrated his rehabilitation and “reformed decision-making processes[.]”

The court reduced Owen’s sentence to a cumulative term of 228 months. Because Owen had already served 16 and a half years, the court imposed a sentence of time served, noting that Owen should be released within 14 days of the decision to supervised release.

Key words: Miller v. Alabama, young adult, adolescent brain, compassionate release, Virginia

Citation: Owen v. United States, 2020 WL 7407872

This post is the 51st post as part of an ongoing Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB) series tracking the latest developments in law and neuroscience cases. To see previous posts about recent cases, see the full case archive on the CLBB website. To see updates on legal scholarship, see the Neurolaw News, hosted by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. This project is made possible through support of the Dana Foundation.

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