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Name: People v. Dokins
Case #: B250572
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 10/30/2015
Subsequent History: Review granted 2/17/2016: S231052

Trial court’s failure to consider the factors discussed in Miller v. Alabama (2012) 132 S.Ct. 2455, before sentencing a juvenile defendant who committed homicide to de facto LWOP mandates reversal and remand for resentencing. Dokins was 15 years old when he shot an adult and a child, killing the baby. Dokins was tried as an adult and convicted of first degree murder, attempted murder, gun use enhancements, and other offenses. He was sentenced to 90 years to life in prison. On appeal, he made an Eighth Amendment challenge to his sentence. Held: Reversed in part and remanded. In Miller, the court held the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates LWOP for juvenile offenders because it precludes consideration of factors such as the age of the offender and its hallmarks, such as immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences. It also prevents taking into account factors such as family environment, the circumstances of the offense, and the possibility of rehabilitation. In People v. Gutierrez (2014) 58 Cal.4th 1354, the court held that Miller requires a trial court to consider the distinctive attributes of youth and how those features might diminish the justification for imposing the harshest penalty on a juvenile offender, before imposing an LWOP sentence. Here, Dokins received a de facto LWOP sentence. (See People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262). After analyzing relevant case law, the Court of Appeal here concluded that a trial court must consider the Miller factors before imposing a de facto LWOP sentence for a homicide offense. Because the trial court did not consider the Miller factors, the case was remanded for a new sentencing hearing. While a trial court need not expressly mention Miller or other controlling authority, the record must reflect that it considered the Miller factors before sentencing a juvenile offender to a de facto LWOP term. [Editor’s Note: A similar issue is currently pending in the California Supreme Court. (See People v. Franklin (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 296, review granted 6/11/2014 (S217699/A135607).)]