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Name: People v. Abundio
Case #: B245774
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 12/04/2013

LWOP sentence imposed on 18-year-old defendant was not cruel or unusual punishment where he viciously stabbed marijuana dealer during an unprovoked and premeditated attack. To obtain marijuana that he could not afford to buy, appellant planned to kill his drug dealer. In an unprovoked attack, he repeatedly stabbed the unarmed dealer. A jury convicted appellant of first degree murder and found a robbery special circumstance and knife use allegation true. (Pen. Code, §§ 187, 189, 190.2, subd. (a)(17), 12022, subd. (b)(1).) On appeal, appellant claimed his LWOP sentence was cruel and unusual punishment based on People v. Dillon (1983) 34 Cal.3d 441. Held: Affirmed. In Dillion, the California Supreme Court found a life sentence imposed for felony murder on an “unusually immature” 17-year-old high school student who killed in the belief he was acting in self-defense constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Appellant’s case was distinguishable from Dillion: appellant was an adult at the time of his crime and there was no evidence that he was unusually immature. Unlike Dillion who had no prior record, appellant had a sustained juvenile petition for assault with a stun gun. The trial court observed that the case reflected a significant escalation in violent criminality. Appellant’s plan did not reflect his immaturity but was instead simple, straightforward, and executed in a vicious manner. He did not act rashly in response to a suddenly developing situation that he found life threatening, he intentionally attacked and killed his dealer by planned subterfuge.

Appellant’s LWOP sentence was not cruel or unusual under Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48 and Miller v. Alabama (2012) 132 S.Ct. 2455. Although he was 18-years-old at the time of his offense, appellant relied on Graham and Miller (which address the constitutionality of LWOP sentences for minors) in arguing that his sentence was cruel or unusual. The court rejected this argument based on its decision in People v. Argeta (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 1478. A minor reaches adulthood at the age of 18. Allowing a person who has only been an adult for a few months to attack his LWOP sentence based on Graham and Miller opens the door to other young adults and such arguments would have no logical end. The court will respect the line that society has drawn and that the U.S. Supreme Court has relied on for sentencing purposes.