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Name: People v. Franklin
Case #: A135607
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 02/28/2014
Subsequent History: Review granted 6/11/2014: S217699

Newly enacted Penal Code section 3051, which affords youthful offenders a parole hearing that provides a meaningful opportunity to obtain release, cures any constitutional defects in 50-year-to-life sentence imposed on 16-year-old murder defendant. Appellant, who was 16 at the time of the offense, was convicted of murder and a gun use allegation was found true. He was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. On appeal he claimed his sentence was a de facto LWOP term and was cruel and unusual, citing Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. __ , and People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262. Held: Affirmed. The court declined to decide whether appellant’s sentence was a de facto LWOP; it assumed the sentence, when imposed, violated the Eighth Amendment. However, the court found remand was not required, because the enactment of Senate Bill 260, which added Penal Code section 3051, cures any constitutional defects. The law establishes a parole eligibility mechanism that provides a defendant serving a sentence for crimes committed as a juvenile a meaningful opportunity for release when he has shown he is rehabilitated and has gained maturity. Acknowledging that Courts of Appeal are divided on the effect of section 3051 on Eighth Amendment challenges to sentences, the court here found that Miller does not require the trial court at the time of initial sentencing to determine when a juvenile offender should be eligible for parole. The new parole eligibility of section 3051 means appellant no longer faces the functional equivalent of an LWOP term for an offense committed when he was a juvenile.