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Name: People v. Em
Case #: G039806
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 03/03/2009

A sentence of 50-years to life for 15 year old convicted of felony-murder was not cruel and unusual punishment. Em was 15 years old when he was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive 25-years-to-life sentences. He was convicted of aiding and abetting a robbery and was convicted on a felony-murder theory. On appeal, he argued that his sentence was unconstitutional under the California and U.S. Constitutions’ bans on cruel and unusual punishment. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that the sentence was not disproportionate to the offense and therefore did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Although Em was 15 years old and immature, when balanced against the seriousness of the crime, his active participation in the robbery and the senseless nature of the murder, as well as his prior gang history and the danger to society he presented, the sentence was not disproportionate. J. Moore dissented, finding that a 50-year to life term for an immature 15-year old who was not the shooter was not within the limits of civilized standards.