Tuesday, May 10, 2011

People v. Nunez (Cal. Ct. App. - May 10, 2011)

It's unusual for an actual case to mimick a joke.  This one does.

The Supreme Court has held that you can't sentence a minor to life without the possibility of parole, at least for non-murder offenses.  So in this case, that required the Court of Appeal to grant a habeas petition for a 14-year old sentenced to LWOP for aggravated kidnapping.

On remand, the trial court said:  "No problem.  I'll sentence you to something other than LWOP.  I hereby grant you five consecutive life sentences, plus five consecutive 20-year enhancements for using a gun.  That way you're technically eligible for parole.  After 175 years."

Which reminded Justice Aaronson of a hypothetical that Justice Mosk authored in the NYU Law Review:

"Judge:  I sentence you to 200 years in state prison.  After that you will be a free man.
Defendant:  But Judge, I cannot possibly serve out that sentence and win my freedom.
Judge:  Just do the best you can."


The Court of Appeal holds that this doesn't work:  That a sentence that allows parole only after 175 years is impermissible just like an equivalent LWOP.

Look for the California Supreme Court to grant review.  This holding conflicts with a contrary holding earlier this year by the Court of Appeal in Ramirez.  Both involve minors (this one, a 14-year old, and in Ramirez a 16-year old).  Both involve horrible offenses.  Seems to me you have to review both of them and decide what the right rule is.

So read the published opinion in this one while you can.  It's pretty good.  Plus includes an appropriate joke.