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Name: People v. Mendez
Case #: B217683
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 09/01/2010

A sentence rendering a minor ineligible for parole until well beyond his life expectancy when the minor does not commit a homicide or inflict great bodily injury constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The trial court sentenced a 16-year-old gang member convicted of robbery and carjacking to an 84-year prison term. He argued on appeal the sentence was cruel and unusual punishment under Graham v. Florida (2010) 130 S.Ct. 2011 because it amounted to a de facto LWOP sentence. The court disagreed that appellant’s de facto LWOP sentence should be reversed pursuant to Graham since that case expressly limited its holding to juveniles actually sentenced to LWOP. Since appellant’s sentence is not technically an LWOP sentence, it is not controlled by Graham. But, the principles set forth in Graham, as well as the traditional “proportionality” test, are relevant in evaluating whether the sentence imposed is cruel and unusual. Although stated slightly differently, both tests prohibit punishment that is “grossly disproportionate” to the crime or to the defendant’s individual culpability. While the minor’s crimes were undoubtedly serious, he did not injure any of the victims or fire his gun. The court also found the minor’s age highly relevant, as well as the fact his sentence was nearly double that of his cohort who actually physically injured one of the victims. Without even doing a full intrajurisdictional and interjurisdictional comparative analysis of the sentence, the court found the first factor alone was sufficient to show the sentence was cruel and unusual. The court remanded for resentencing.