Juvenile murderer’s LWOP sentence reversed where trial court refused to hear evidence of her postconviction efforts to rehabilitate. When she was 16 years old, Lozano participated in a killing and, in 1996, was convicted of first degree murder with a special circumstance. She was sentenced to LWOP. After Miller v. Alabama (2012) 132 S.Ct. 2455 was decided, the prosecution agreed with Lozano’s request to be resentenced. Prior to resentencing, defendant filed a statement in mitigation of punishment, attaching hundreds of pages of exhibits that traced her educational and counseling efforts, as well as commendations from prison staff for her transformation from a difficult to a model inmate. The trial court concluded that it must impose sentence based on the circumstances that existed in 1996 and would not consider postsentence mitigation evidence. It imposed an LWOP sentence. Lozano appealed. Held: Reversed. Miller held that a mandatory LWOP term for defendants under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment. It requires a trial court to consider a juvenile offender’s youth and attendant characteristics before imposing a particular penalty and identifies factors the court should consider. In People v. Gutierrez (2014) 58 Cal.4th 1354, the court found that Miller requires the sentencing court to consider all relevant evidence of amenability to rehabilitation before imposing an LWOP sentence on a juvenile who kills. In light of Miller and Gutierrez, disregarding Lozano’s proffered evidence of postconviction rehabilitation was error. The court rejected the Attorney General’s position that the proper venue for consideration of postsentence mitigating evidence is via a petition for resentencing (Pen. Code, § 1170, subd. (d)(2)), because that is not the exclusive remedy available to defendants and it is no substitute for a defendant’s Eighth Amendment right to a constitutional sentence in the first instance.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B263640.PDF