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News from the Director

Recent Important Developments in Juvenile Life-Without-Parole Cases
October 19, 2012

Panel attorneys should be aware of recent important developments concerning cases with life-without-parole (LWOP), or equivalent, sentences for defendants who committed their offenses when they were juveniles: Miller v. Alabama (June 25, 2012) 567 U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 2455, People v. Caballero (August 16, 2012) 55 Cal.4th 262, and S.B. 9, signed into law on September 30, 2012.

In Miller, the United States Supreme Court held that a mandatory LWOP sentence in a homicide case violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment when applied to a defendant who was less than 18 years of age at the time of the offense. In Caballero, our state supreme court held that a sentence of 110 years to life for non-homicide offenses was the equivalent of LWOP and violated the Eighth Amendment.

S.B. 9 (Stats. 2012, ch. 828), effective January 1, 2013, establishes a new discretionary statutory procedure for persons serving LWOP for juvenile offenses to petition sentencing courts to "recall" and reconsider such sentences.

Three sample Miller pleadings, all created by First District Appellate Project Assistant Director J. Bradley O'Connell, are available in Word and WordPerfect:

  • Sample Motion for Discretionary Appointment of Counsel for Miller Habeas (a pre-OSC request for discretionary appointment of counsel in a state habeas proceeding (superior court or appeal) based, in part, on Martinez v. Ryan (2012) __ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 1309 ( WP / MS Word);
  • a Sample Miller Habeas Pleading ( WP / MS Word) and a Sample Miller Habeas Argument ( WP / MS Word), employing People v. Moffett (1st Dist., Div. 5;10/12/2012; A133032) holding Penal Code section 190.5 runs afoul of Miller, requiring a remand for resentencing.

These samples are for cases that are already final, and are designed to be used together. This is a fast developing area of the law, so please check the currency of all authorities cited in the samples, and be on the lookout for new authorities. If you have any questions about the briefing, please contact Brad O'Connell or Richard Braucher. The Sample Miller Habeas Argument may also be adapted for use in an appellate brief. If you have a pending appeal with a potential Miller or Caballero claim, please talk to your buddy.

The Pacific Juvenile Defender Center maintains a resource bank with additional briefing concerning Miller, Caballero, and S.B. 9. To access that briefing you must register as a member (it's free), then go to "Member Resource Bank" on the home page, click on "Disposition/Post-Disposition," then the folder "Appellate Review," and "Miller/Caballero Briefing.

A state-wide Miller/Caballero/S.B. 9 Committee is coordinating post-conviction strategies for litigating Miller, Caballero, and S.B. 9 claims. If you have such as case, contact Human Rights Watch staff attorney Elizabeth Calvin for more information: calvine at hrw.org

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