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Name: People v. Moffett
Case #: A133032
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 10/12/2012
Subsequent History: Review granted 1/3/2013: S206771

Presumption that juvenile, convicted as adult of felony murder with special circumstances, should be sentenced to LWOP amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Appellant was 17 years old when he and an accomplice committed armed robberies and his accomplice killed a police officer during their attempted escape. Appellant was convicted of first degree murder and the robberies. The jury also found true three special circumstances. He was sentenced to LWOP. On appeal he challenged his sentence as cruel and unusual punishment because appellant was a juvenile when the offenses were committed, was not the actual shooter, and lacked intent to kill. Held: Reversed and remanded. Although Penal Code section 190.5, subdivision (b) gives a court the discretion in a special circumstance murder case to impose a 25-year-to-life sentence on a defendant who was 16 or 17 years old at the time of the offense, it has been judicially construed to establish that LWOP is generally the default sentence, absent a good reason to choose the lesser term. Such a presumption is “contrary to the spirit” of Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. __ [132 S.Ct. 2455], which found such sentences should be imposed in rare cases.