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Name: People v. Chavez
Case #: D061946
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/22/2014
Summary

Remand for resentencing required where trial court did not consider the factors set forth in Miller and Gutierrez before sentencing juvenile offenders to LWOP for two murders. Chavez and Elias were convicted of two counts of first degree murder with special circumstances. The trial court sentenced both defendants to two consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) plus a firearm enhancement. When advised of its authority to impose a lesser punishment of 25 years to life (Pen. Code, § 190.5, subd. (b)), the court conducted a further hearing at which it heard argument and mitigating evidence, and declined to modify the sentences. On appeal, defendants challenged their sentences as cruel and unusual punishment. Held: Sentences reversed. The defendants were sentenced before Miller v. Alabama (2012) 132 S.Ct. 2455 and People v. Gutierrez (2014) 58 Cal.4th 1354, were decided. Thus, the trial court did not consider the particular characteristics of the defendants and details of the offenses, as required by those cases. Further, at the time of sentencing, there existed a presumption in favor of LWOP. Although there are circumstances in the record that suggest the guidance in Miller and Gutierrez will not lead the court to impose a more lenient sentence, the record does not reflect whether the trial court considered the ultimate question required by those cases—whether the crimes reflected transient immaturity or irreparable corruption. Because it cannot be determined how the trial court would have exercised its discretion upon considering this issue, remand is required.