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Name: People v. Scott
Case #: E060028
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 03/20/2015
Subsequent History: Review granted 7/8/2015: S226155

Enactment of Penal Code section 3051 renders juvenile offender’s 120-years-to-life sentence for nonhomicide offense constitutional because it provides a meaningful opportunity for release. Scott was convicted of three counts of attempted murder and other offenses with firearm and gang enhancements based on evidence that he participated in a gang-related, drive-by shooting that resulted in injuries but no deaths. Although he was a juvenile at the time of the crimes, he was tried as an adult and sentenced to 120-years-to-life. In a habeas petition, Scott sought resentencing on the basis that his sentence was a defacto LWOP sentence in a nonhomicide case, which amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. (People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262.) At his resentencing hearing, the trial court accepted the People’s argument that the recent enactment of section 3051 cured any constitutional deficiency with Scott’s sentence. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48, held that sentencing a juvenile to LWOP for a nonhomicide offense violates the Eighth Amendment. Caballero extended Graham to sentences that are the functional equivalent of LWOP. It was uncontested that Scott’s 120-years-to-life sentence was the functional equivalent to LWOP. However, section 3051 makes juveniles like Scott eligible for parole after 25 years, which is within a juvenile’s normal life expectancy. “[T]he focal point of Caballero is the end result required by Graham and by the Eighth Amendment—that a juvenile offender must have a reasonable opportunity to obtain parole within his or her lifetime upon a showing of rehabilitation.” Because section 3051 provides such an opportunity to Scott, his 120-years-to-life sentence does not violate the Eighth Amendment and resentencing is not required. [Editor’s Note: This issue is currently pending in the California Supreme Court. (See In re Alatriste (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1232, review granted 2/19/2014 (S214652/B248072); In re Bonilla (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1232, review granted 2/19/2014 (S214960/B248199); People v. Franklin (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 296, review granted 6/11/2014 (S217699/A135607).) Also, Justice McKinster dissented, concluding that “[t]he courts should not, and may not, abdicate their responsibility to take account of the offender’s status as a juvenile in fashioning a constitutional sentence in the first instance.”]