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Name: People v. Garcia
Case #: E059452
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 01/24/2016

Sentence of 32-years-to-life for attempted murder, imposed on minor, is not cruel and unusual punishment because he will be eligible for parole during his 25th year of incarceration. Opinion on transfer from the California Supreme Court. Garcia was convicted as an adult of attempted murder (Pen. Code, §§ 664, 187, subd. (a)) for shooting a woman in the face while robbing her (Pen. Code, § 211) when he was 15 years old. The jury also found that he personally and intentionally discharged a firearm, causing great bodily injury (Pen. Code, § 12022.53, subd. (d)) and that he personally inflicted great bodily injury (Pen. Code, § 12022.7, subd. (a)). He argued that his 32-years-to-life sentence is cruel and unusual punishment. Held: Affirmed and remanded in light of People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261. Both the United States and California Constitutions prohibit the imposition of punishment that is cruel and unusual. In recent years the U.S. Supreme Court (Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48) and California Supreme Court (People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262) have emphasized that juvenile offenders have special protection under the Eighth Amendment and are less deserving of the most severe punishments because of their immaturity and susceptibility to negative influences. The cases cited by Garcia in support of his claim involve terms of life without parole or a term of years that is in effect life without parole. However, Garcia’s sentence of 32-years-to-life is not as severe as an actual or effective life without parole term. After 32 years, he will be only about 47 years old. Further, recently enacted Penal Code section 3051 guarantees Garcia a youthful offender parole hearing after 25 years of incarceration. Section 3051 has, in effect, abolished de facto life sentences for minors in California, as recognized in People v. Franklin. To fulfill the requirements of section 3051, the defendant must be afforded an opportunity to make a record of information relevant to a future youthful offender parole hearing. The case was remanded with directions that the trial court determine whether defendant was afforded an adequate opportunity to make a record that complies with the requirements set forth in People v. Franklin.

The appellant’s sentence is not cruel and unusual punishment under the California Constitution. Statutory penalties may constitute cruel and unusual punishment when they are so disproportionate to the crime for which they are imposed that it shocks the conscience and offends fundamental notions of human dignity. In determining whether a punishment is disproportionate to the offense a court considers the nature of the offense and the offender, with particular attention to the degree of danger both present to society; a comparison of the punishment imposed with the punishments for more serious crimes in the same jurisdiction; and a comparison of the punishment imposed with punishment for the same crimes in other jurisdictions. The sentence here was not cruel and unusual in light of the nature of the offense—shooting a woman in the face at close range while robbing her. The sentence is not grossly disproportionate to Garcia’s individual culpability based on his personal characteristics—he had prior juvenile offenses, showed no remorse for the offense, was mad that he might have to pay restitution to the victim, and angry at his girlfriend for testifying against him.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: