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Name: People v. Siackasorn
Case #: C065399
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 12/07/2012
Subsequent History: Review granted 3/20/2013: S207973

The presumptive punishment for juvenile special-circumstance first degree murderers under Penal Code section 190.5, subdivision (b) is not LWOP in light of Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. ___ [183 L.Ed.2d 407, 132 S.Ct. 2455]. Appellant was convicted of the first degree special-circumstance murder of a police officer. He was 16 years old at the time of the offense and the judge sentenced him to LWOP. The Court of Appeal initially affirmed but the California Supreme Court granted review and transferred the case back to the court to reconsider its opinion in light of Miller. After reconsidering the matter, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgement of sentence. Prior to Miller, California appellate courts interpreted section 190.5, subdivision (b) as setting forth LWOP as the generally mandatory and presumptive punishment for 16- or 17-year-old special circumstance murderers. (People v. Guinn (1994) 28 Cal.App.4th 1130, 1141–1142.) A trial court’s sentencing discretion was limited as a result of this. The court concluded that Miller had undercut this interpretation of section 190.5, subdivision (b) and that the sentencing court has equal discretion to impose either LWOP or the 25-year-to-life penalty after considering which sentence is appropriate in light of Miller. The court in Miller stressed that LWOP is the harshest possible penalty available for a juvenile offender and noted that the appropriate occasions for this punishment will be uncommon. Further, Guinn’s statutory interpretation is trumped by Miller’s grounding in the constitution. The trial court below did not have the benefit of Miller’s constitutional guidance and was required to follow the interpretation set forth in Guinn. The record disclosed the necessity for a sentencing remand and that the “certain process” mandated by Miller for juvenile LWOP sentencing was not fully applied. The court agreed with People v. Moffett (2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 1465 and disagreed with People v. Gutierrez (2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 646 on this issue.