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Name: In re Cook
Case #: S240153
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/03/2019

A defendant entitled to a hearing under Penal Code sections 3051 and 4801 may seek the remedy of a Franklin proceeding, even if the offender’s sentence is otherwise final. In 2007, Cook was sentenced to LWOP and five consecutive terms of 25 years to life for crimes committed when he was 17 years old. In 2014, Cook filed a habeas petition challenging his sentence as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. 460. During Cook’s habeas proceedings in the Court of Appeal, the court held (1) Cook’s sentence was constitutional because newly enacted sections 3051 and 4801 entitled him to a parole hearing during his 25th year of incarceration and (2) Cook was entitled to make a record under People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261 and that the issue was cognizable in habeas corpus. The People petitioned for review. Held: Reversed. In Franklin, the defendant committed murder at age 16 and was sentenced to 50 years to life. Because he was eligible for a youth offender parole hearing during his 25th year of incarceration pursuant to sections 3051 and 4801, the court remanded the case to the trial court to allow Franklin to make a record of youth-related information, for use at his future parole hearing. In Cook’s case, the People argued that the Franklin remedy is limited to nonfinal cases. However, the statutory text of sections 3051 and 4801 “make clear that the Legislature intended youth offender parole hearings to apply retrospectively, that is, to all eligible youth offenders regardless of the date of conviction.” It follows that the evidence preservation process should apply to all youth offenders now eligible for such a parole hearing, as the possibility that relevant evidence will be lost as years go by is no less true for offenders whose convictions on direct appeal are final. Moreover, a Franklin proceeding is an evidence preservation process, unrelated to the validity of defendant’s sentence. Neither entitlement to a youth offender parole hearing, nor the evidence preservation process, disturbs the finality of state convictions.

In cases with final judgments, Franklin proceedings are authorized by Penal Code section 1203.01 and Code of Civil Procedure section 187, rendering resort to habeas relief unnecessary. Section 1203.01 provides that the trial court may create a postjudgment record for the benefit of CDCR. “Immediately after judgment has been pronounced,” the judge, district attorney, defense attorney, and investigative law enforcement agency may file reports with the clerk, setting forth their views on the crime and the defendant, which are sent to CDCR to “provid[e] information to assist effective administration of the law.” (Penal Code, § 1203.01, subd. (a).) Although section 1203.01 does not reference the remedy set forth in Franklin, courts have inherent power, as well as power under Code of Civil Procedure section 187, to adopt any suitable method of practice, if the procedure at issue is not specified by statute or by rules adopted by the Judicial Council. Section 1203.01’s framework provides a flexible, efficient, and suitable means of collecting information for the benefit of the Board, and recognizing the court’s authority under section 1203.01 to gather youth offender evidence effectuates sections 3051 and 4801. “Because section 1203.01 provides an adequate remedy at law to preserve evidence of youth-related factors, resort to a petition for writ of habeas corpus is unnecessary, at least in the first instance.”

For inmates who seek to preserve evidence following a final judgment, the proper avenue is to file a motion in the superior court under the original caption and case number, citing the authority of Penal Code section 1203.01 and In re Cook. The motion should establish the inmate’s entitlement to a youth offender parole hearing and indicate when such hearing is anticipated to take place, or if any hearings have already occurred. In terms of structure, the proceeding is not limited to the statements specified in section 1203.01, but may include relevant documents, evaluations, or testimony (subject to cross-examination) as described in Franklin. The trial court may exercise its discretion with respect to how to conduct the proceedings efficiently, and may, for example, require an offer of proof regarding the evidence an offender seeks to present, so it can determine whether the evidence is relevant to youth-related factors and meaningfully adds to the already available record. The court may also consider whether a Franklin proceeding is likely to produce fruitful evidence, considering how much time has passed since the offense occurred, and whether the offender has already come before the Board for a youth offender parole hearing. Because Cook sought a Franklin proceeding through habeas corpus, the court reversed the Court of Appeal’s judgment granting habeas relief and remanded to the Court of Appeal with directions to deny the petition without prejudice to Cook filing a motion in the trial court in accordance with the procedures outlined above. [Editor’s Notes: Opinion by Justice Corrigan. (1) In a footnote, the court noted that nothing in the opinion forecloses an offender from filing a petition for writ of mandate or habeas corpus to compel the trial court to perform its duties under Franklin. (2) Justice Kruger filed a concurring and dissenting opinion, agreeing that a youthful offender may submit documentary evidence to the court under section 1203.01, but disagreeing with the majority’s conclusion that live testimony may be presented in a final case.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: