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Name: In re Alatriste; In re Bonilla
Case #: B248072
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 10/29/2013
Subsequent History: Review granted 2/19/14: S214652 (Alatriste), S214960 (Bonilla)

Juvenile defendants’ life sentences are not cruel and unusual punishment because Senate Bill 260, and its statutory implementation (Pen. Code, § 3051), provides a mechanism for them to be released sooner than their sentences might otherwise allow. Petitioners committed homicides as juveniles, were tried as adults, and received lengthy terms of years to life in prison (77 to life and 50 to life). Each filed habeas petitions challenging his sentence on cruel and unusual punishment grounds. They sought review of the denied petitions. The California Supreme Court granted review and directed the Court of Appeal to consider the constitutional claim and whether Miller v. Alabama (2012) __ U.S. __ (prohibiting LWOP sentence for 14-year-old capital murder defendant) should be applied retroactively. Held: Affirmed. The Legislature enacted Senate Bill 260, to take effect January 1, 2014 to address the concerns expressed in Miller, Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48, and People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262. New Penal Code section 3051 provides a youth offender parole eligibility mechanism, which provides defendants who were juveniles when they committed their life offense a meaningful opportunity for parole earlier than the length of their sentences would otherwise allow. This renders moot the issue of whether Miller should be applied retroactively to petitioners’ cases.

Petitioners are not entitled to a new sentencing hearing. Cases such as Miller, Graham, and Caballero do not require that the meaningful opportunity to obtain parole be determined at the time of sentencing. There is no constitutional infirmity to require these defendants to serve 20 to 25 years of their terms, as provided in Senate Bill 260, before allowing them to demonstrate they have been rehabilitated and have matured to the point they can become contributing members of society.