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Name: People v. Caballero
Case #: S190647
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/16/2012
Summary

Sentence of 110-years-to-life for nonhomicide juvenile offender is cruel and unusual punishment. When defendant was 16 years old, he fired upon rival gang members, wounding one of them. He was convicted of three counts of attempted murder, use of a gun and infliction of great bodily injury and sentenced to 110 years to life. On appeal he challenged his sentence as cruel and unusual punishment. Reversed. In Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. __, the United States Supreme Court held that although a state is not required to guarantee eventual freedom to a juvenile convicted of a nonhomicide offense, it must afford a meaningful opportunity to obtain release “based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” A life without parole sentence for a nonhomicide juvenile offender denies such an opportunity and therefore violates the Eighth Amendment. In Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. __, “the United States Supreme Court extended Graham’s reasoning (but not its categorical ban) to homicide cases” noting that the observations in Graham regarding the distinctive and transitory mental traits of juvenile offenders is not crime-specific. Miller made clear that Graham’s ban on life without parole sentences for nonhomicide juvenile offenders includes a term-of-years sentence that amounts to life without parole. Here, the minor would not be eligible for parole for over 100 years. This is outside his life expectancy, affords no opportunity to obtain release, and therefore constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The court stated that similarly situated defendants may seek to modify their sentences via a petition for writ of habeas corpus to allow the trial court to individually weigh the mitigating evidence in determining the appropriate length of sentence.