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Appeals court upholds 110-year sentence for teen gang member convicted of attempted murder

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alp227 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-18-11 07:03 PM
Original message
Appeals court upholds 110-year sentence for teen gang member convicted of attempted murder
(01-18) 15:38 PST LOS ANGELES -- A state appeals court upheld a 16-year-old gang member's 110-year sentence for three attempted murders Tuesday and said the fact that he will be in prison until he dies doesn't violate the U.S. Supreme Court's ban on life-without-parole terms for juveniles in non-homicide cases.

Rodrigo Caballero was convicted in adult court of shooting at three rival gang members and wounding one in Palmdale (Los Angeles County) in June 2007. He testified that he had been trying to kill them, but his lawyer argued that Caballero, who was diagnosed as schizophrenic and delusional after his arrest, should have been found incompetent to stand trial.

The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles rejected that argument Tuesday, saying Caballero had regained his competency with medication, and also said his sentence did not violate the constitutional standard that the Supreme Court set in a Florida case in May.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/0...
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happyslug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-18-11 07:07 PM
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1. The Actual Opinion
Edited on Tue Jan-18-11 07:45 PM by happyslug
http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B217709....

The Key part of the Decision, it basically says sentencing someone to life without parole for a crime where no one dies. is unconstitutional, but if the Sentence is for a period longer then the life expectancy of the defendant, the US Supreme Court does not count, for such a sentence is Constitutional:

See Part V of the Opinion of the Court:

V. Defendants Sentence Is Not Unconstitutional

At oral argument, for the first time on appeal, defendant cited the high court‟s opinion in Graham v. Florida (2010) ___ U.S. ___, 130 S.Ct. 2011 (Graham), and asserted that it required a remand of the case for resentencing. We gave the Attorney General an opportunity to brief the matter and defendant the option to file a reply. Both parties submitted a brief.

In Graham, a 16-year-old pled guilty to armed burglary with assault or battery, a felony that carried a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and attempted armed robbery, a felony that carried a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. The court withheld adjudication of guilt as to both charges and placed Graham on probation for a three-year term. (Graham, supra, 130 S.Ct. at p. 2018.) Less than six months later, Graham was arrested for participating in a series of robberies. The trial court found Graham guilty of the earlier burglary and robbery charges and imposed the maximum sentence for both crimes. Because Florida did not have a parole system, Graham‟s life sentence was without the possibility of parole. (Id. at pp. 2019-2020.) The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Florida court, holding that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide. (Id. at p. 2034.)

Defendant argues, Graham held that the Eighth Amendment must give juveniles convicted of nonhomicide crimes some chance of release based on rehabilitation. sentence of three consecutive life terms is therefore unconstitutional because is denied any meaningful‟ change of release and cannot earn good conduct/work credits to mitigate his sentence. We disagree that Graham applies to individuals in defendant‟s position.

The Graham court applied a categorical rule that implicated a particular type of sentence as it applies to an entire class of offenders who have committed a range of crimes. (Graham, supra, 130 S.Ct. at pp. 2022-2023.) As the Attorney General points out, the court specifically limited the scope of its decision. The court defined the class of offenders with which it was dealing thusly: The instant case concerns only those juvenile offenders sentenced to life without parole solely for a nonhomicide offense. (Id. at p. 2023.) In the present case, defendant‟s sentence was a term of years (110) to life, not life without the possibility of parole, and no language in Graham suggests that the case applies to such a sentence. If the court had intended to broaden the class of offenders within the scope of its decision, it would have stated that the case concerns any juvenile offender who receives the functional equivalent of a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a nonhomicide offense. But as Justice Alito observed in his dissent, othing in the Court‟s opinion affects the imposition of a sentence to a term of years without the possibility of parole. (Id. at p. 2058 ; accord People v. Mendez (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 47, 63 (Mendez) .) Thus, Graham provides defendant no basis for relief.

Although not cited by defendant, the Attorney General addressed the holding of Mendez, a case authored by our colleagues in Division Two. Mendez was 16 years old when he committed offenses that led to his conviction of one count of carjacking, one count of assault with a firearm, and seven counts of second degree robbery, with findings that he used a firearm during the commission of the offenses and that the crimes were carried out with the intent to benefit a criminal street gang. He was sentenced to state prison for 84 years to life.
On appeal, Mendez claimed that his sentence is a de facto life without the possibility of parole sentence because, due to the length of his sentence (84 years), he will not be eligible for parole during his lifetime. Although the court found that Graham expressly limited its holding to juveniles actually sentenced to (Mendez, supra, 188 Cal.App.4th at p. 63), it noted the Supreme Court did require that a19
state must‟ give a juvenile some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.‟ (Ibid., quoting Graham, supra, 130 S.Ct. at p. 2030.) The Mendez panel acknowledged Graham stated that some juveniles who commit certain crimes may turn out to be deserving of incarceration for the rest of their lives. It noted, however, the Supreme Court also found that such a determination could not be made at the outset because it denies the juvenile offender an opportunity to show he or she has learned from past mistakes. (Mendez, supra, at p. 64.) Observing that the trial court found that Mendez deserved the sentence he received, the Mendez court stated: The trial court may turn out to be correct in its implied assessment that Mendez is a sociopath, or at the very least that Mendez should be separated from society for the duration of his life, but Graham makes clear that a sentence based on such a judgment at the outset is unconstitutional. (Ibid.)6 The case was remanded to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.

We disagree with the Mendez court‟s conclusion that Graham applies to the issue presented. Mendez correctly finds that Graham is expressly limited to those cases where a juvenile offender actually receives a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for a nonhomicide offense. The court then relies on language in the opinion and determines that the case applies to a term-of-years sentence that has the same effect as a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

We decline to follow Mendezs holding that the principles stated in Graham bar a court from sentencing a juvenile offender to a term-of-years sentence that exceeds his or her life expectancy. Under our sentencing rules, there are only two ways a juvenile defendant can receive such a sentence. One is to commit crimes against multiple victims during separate incidents and the other is to commit certain enumerated offenses,discharge a gun, and inflict great bodily injury upon at least two victims.7 Following Mendezs reasoning, an individual who shot and severely injured any number of victims during separate attempts on their lives could not receive a term commensurate with his or her crimes if all the victims had the good fortune to survive their wounds, because the sentence would exceed the perpetrator‟s life expectancy. Graham does not purport to compel such a result. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for the court to write, Those who commit truly horrifying crimes as juveniles may turn out to be irredeemable, and thus deserving of incarceration for the duration of their lives. The Eighth Amendment does not foreclose the possibility that persons convicted of nonhomicide crimes committed before adulthood will remain behind bars for life. (Graham, supra, 130 S.Ct. at p. 2030.) The only way to make sense of the caveat that comes in the next sentence, that states are forbidden from making the judgment at the outset that those offenders never will be fit to reenter society (ibid.), is by concluding the court intended that no juvenile receive a sentence that by its own terms would bar parole. In other words, the court was referring to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. That is not our case. Defendant‟s sentence resulted from his intentionally discharging a firearm during an attempt to kill three individuals, leading to the infliction of great bodily injury upon one of them. Nothing in Graham renders the punishment constitutionally infirm.

As defendant does not claim his sentence was unconstitutional by any other measure, we need go no further. His sentence will not be disturbed.
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May Hamm Donating Member (244 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-18-11 07:47 PM
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2. *sigh*


*sigh* A shame but I see why they ruled that way. The other way would imply a minor charged with multiple separate crimes requiring separate trials could not be sentenced in the others if the first or second resulted in long terms.

But I'm also bothered by the other ruling. That judges believe schizophrenia can be cured. Even with medication the victim knows the voices are out there just beyond the edge.
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shockedcanadian Donating Member (224 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-22-11 02:26 AM
Response to Original message
3. So let me get this straight...
This will be long so bear with me.

Let me get this straight, a 16 year old kid attempts to shoot 3 people and kill them, but he is unsuccessful, noone dies. He is sentences to 110 years for a murder(s) that never occurred? I am amazed.

Being from Canada, we have sometimes been accused of having more lax laws than the U.S. There was a time I felt a heavy handed approach was only fair, as in the American system, however I have since changed my opinion drastically, especially when the facts prove that heavier sentences are not deterrents to crime. I am not trying to defend the guilt of this kid, and I myself do not have a criminal record, nor intend to ever have one, but 110 years for an attempted crime!??! It seems grossly excessive. Does noone see the issue regarding the cost of imprisoning this kid, both the social/economic loss if this kid could have been rehabilitated and one day became a contributing member of society (might not be possible due to this kids mental state) and, the financial costs of keeping him in prison?

You see, I feel the biggest problem in the U.S judicial system lies, massive and sometimes unbalanced sentences. As an example, in Canada someone committing an armed robbery without priors would get a 5 year MAX sentence, often alot less depending on the circumstances, some might even avoid penitentiary time. Let's assume someone is committing that same armed robbery in a store in the U.S, regardless of the social reasons for the robbery (and I know some people refuse to accept socialization of criminals, but it there is no way to deny this impact, regardless of how much people hate to discuss it), he now is concerned about witnesses because he knows getting caught might land him, I don't know, 10-20 years in the pen? Is this an accurate potential sentence? I am throwing out numbers here to make my point but I am thinking the sentence range is accurate depending on the state. Let's go with this 10-20 year range.

So now this person thinks to himself, the easiest way for me to get caught is witnesses. This store clerk is the only witness to the crime, therefore, he might escalate his crime spree to include manslaughter, something he had not intended, if he feels it would decrease the chance of him getting caught for the original robbery (and hence potentially 20 years in the pen). So now instead of a simple theft of probably under $1000, 2 lives will be destroyed, the man being shot and the shooter. The system indirectly cost the store clerk his life, this is of course assuming the criminal understands the sentence range, and did not have any prior desire to commit a crime other than robbery.

I love the Libertarian system in the U.S, many Canadians gladly move to the U.S and contribute positively to your society ( I would as well if needed). I love the massive amount of freedom granted in the U.S, don't get me wrong and I assume alot of these harsh sentences try to prevent abuses of a system in which people are accountable for their actions due to these extreme democratic ideals. However, I think that often there is a "lock them up and throw away the key" attitude that does not benefit the population and it truly does not meet the objectives it was intended to serve.

Thanks for your time. Opinions/disagreements are welcome.





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