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Name: In re Heard
Case #: D063181
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 01/22/2014
Subsequent History: Review granted 4/30/2014: S216772

Juvenile’s sentence of 23 years for voluntary manslaughter and 80 years to life for nonhomicide offenses constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Heard was convicted of two counts of attempted first degree murder, plus gang and gun enhancements, and pled guilty to a separate voluntary manslaughter with accompanying enhancements. The crimes were committed when Heard was 15-years-old and 16-years-old, respectively. He was sentenced to a determinate term of 23 years for the manslaughter and a consecutive indeterminate term of 80 years to life for the attempted murders. He filed a petition for habeas corpus contending that his sentence is equivalent to LWOP in violation of People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262, which held that sentencing a juvenile for a nonhomicide offense to a defacto LWOP term constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Held: Petition granted; remanded for resentencing. Heard’s sentence constituted a defacto LWOP term and, under the unique circumstances of Heard’s case, his particular homicide offense does not take him outside the safety of Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48 and Caballero. Under Graham and Miller v. Alabama (2012) 132 S.Ct. 2455, the justification for a juvenile LWOP sentence for a homicide must come from the homicide crime itself. Here, the bulk of Heard’s sentence (80 years to life) was based on two nonhomicide offenses that were unrelated to his homicide offense. Because the maximum sentence for Heard’s particular voluntary manslaughter offense was 31 years, far less than LWOP, it cannot be a crime that reflects “irreparable corruption,” which is required by Miller to impose a juvenile LWOP sentence. Under these circumstances, Heard’s sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment under Graham and Caballero.

Despite the enactment of SB 260, which establishes youth offender parole hearings for inmates serving a sentence for crimes committed as a juvenile, the sentencing court still has the duty to impose a constitutionally appropriate sentence. The court also considered whether newly enacted SB 260 negated the need to remand Heard’s case to the trial court for resentencing. Although SB 260 (Pen. Code, § 3051) now provides for a “youth offender parole hearing,” a “sentencing court still must attempt to prescribe the constitutionally appropriate sentence under Graham, Miller, and Caballero.” There is no guarantee that petitioner will receive an opportunity to avail himself of the provisions of section 3051, as SB 260 could be replaced or repealed. Additionally, even with the passage of SB 260, a sentencing court remains obligated to consider the mitigating circumstances of youth. The court disagreed with In re Alatriste (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1232.