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Name: People v. Palafox
Case #: F067413
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/03/2014

Juvenile court properly considered Miller factors when it reimposed LWOP sentence on 16-year-old offender. Palofox and Hoffman were each convicted of two counts of first degree murder with special circumstances and each was sentenced to two consecutive LWOP terms. Both defendants were 16 at the time of the offense. In their first appeal, the appellate court affirmed the convictions but vacated the sentences and remanded the matters to the trial court to exercise its discretion under Penal Code section 190.5, subdivision (b) in light of Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S.__ [132 S.Ct. 2455]. In determining whether or not to reimpose LWOP on remand, the trial court considered the factors Miller found appropriate. Although it could not exclude the possibility of rehabilitation, the trial court reimposed the LWOP sentence, finding that the circumstances of the severe and brutal crime carried the greatest weight. On appeal, Palofox argued that the Eighth Amendment as construed in Miller forbids imposition of an LWOP sentence on a juvenile offender except when the facts show that the juvenile is irreparably corrupt. Held: Affirmed. In Miller, the court indicated that juvenile LWOP sentences will be “uncommon” and should be reserved for “the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption.” However, Miller does not categorically bar an LWOP sentence for juvenile offenders who commit homicides. “Instead, it mandates only that a sentencer follow a certain process—considering an offender’s youth and attendant characteristics—before imposing a particular penalty.” Here, the appellate court concluded that a juvenile offender’s potential for rehabilitation was not a dispositive or preeminent factor that overrides all the others. As long as a trial court gives due consideration to an offender’s youth and attendant characteristics, as required by Miller, it may give such weight to the relevant factors as it reasonably determines as appropriate, under all the circumstances of the case.