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Name: People v. Windfield
Case #: E055062
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 09/28/2016

Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. __ [132 S.Ct. 2455], does not apply to defendant who committed murder when he was 18 years old. Windfield and Johnson shot and killed a man who threatened Windfield’s sister. Windfield was 18 years old at the time he committed the offense. He was sentenced to 90-years-to-life in this case and appealed, arguing, inter alia, that his sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment under Miller. The California Supreme Court ultimately issued a grant-and-hold of review and retransferred the case to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration in light of People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261. Held: Affirmed. In Miller, the Supreme Court held that “mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments.” The Court’s analysis focused on how the “distinctive attributes of youth diminish the penological justification for imposing the harshest sentences on juvenile offenders even when they commit terrible crimes.” Windfield argued that scientific literature shows that 18 year olds share many of the same attributes as juveniles discussed in Miller. “However, we are bound by precedent and there is no precedent for us to declare that Miller applies to 18 year olds. Our legislature has determined that 18 is the age at which a person is considered an adult.” (See also People v. Argeta (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 1478, 1482 [reaching a similar conclusion].) Furthermore, the fact Penal Code section 3051 entitles an offender who was under the age of 23 at the time he committed the offense to a parole hearing in the 25th year of his incarceration moots Windfield’s sentencing claim.

While section 3051 moots claim that 90-year-to-life sentence amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, remand is appropriate pursuant to People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261. Johnson was 17 when he shot and killed the man. He was sentenced to 90-years-to-life (the functional equivalent to life without parole). The trial court failed to take into account the attributes of youth before imposing that sentence in violation of Miller. However, section 3051 has mooted Johnson’s claim because it entitles him to a parole hearing in the 25th year of his incarceration. In Franklin, after observing that section 3051 rendered a Miller violation moot, the court determined that remand was nevertheless appropriate so that the offender could make a record of matters that may be relevant at his eventual youth offender parole hearing. The same result is appropriate here, where Johnson’s counsel failed to file a sentencing memorandum and the probation officer’s report contained “scant information” about Johnson’s background.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: