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Robert Veal was convicted for crimes committed in the course of two armed robberies on November 22, 2010. After a jury found Veal guilty of malice murder and other offenses charged in the indictment against him, the trial court sentenced him to imprisonment for life without parole (“LWOP”) for malice murder; six consecutive life sentences for rape, aggravated sodomy, and four armed robbery convictions; and sentences totaling 60 consecutive years for other convictions involved in the case. Veal argued in his first appeal that because he was under 18 years of age at the time of his crimes, his LWOP sentence was improperly imposed. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed; the trial court made no determination on the record with respect to whether Veal was “irreparably corrupt or permanently incorrigible, as necessary to put him in the narrow class of juvenile murderers for whom an LWOP sentence was proportional under the Eighth Amendment.” Accordingly, the Court vacated the LWOP sentence and remanded the case for resentencing on that count. At the sentencing hearing the trial court conducted on remand, the State announced it would forgo seeking LWOP and, instead, asked the court to impose two additional consecutive life with parole sentences (for the malice murder conviction and one of the armed robbery counts that the trial court previously incorrectly merged with the murder conviction) in addition to the other consecutive life sentences already imposed. Veal introduced published life expectancy tables to support his assertion that the recommended sentence would exceed his life expectancy. The trial court, however, rejected Veal’s assertion that this would amount to a de facto life without parole sentence, and imposed the State’s recommended sentence without making an individualized determination regarding the appropriateness of the sentence pursuant to Miller. Finding no reversible error to this sentence, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Veal v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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This case presented the issue of whether a trial court has authority to dismiss a prosecutor’s notice of intent to seek the death penalty prior to trial. Appellant Tracen Franklin was eighteen years old at the time of the events involved in this case. He was one of four young men indicted for malice murder and felony murder (predicated on aggravated assault) for beating and kicking to death Bobby Tillman after a teen party. Several trial witnesses identified Franklin as one of three others who joined in, and the four men severely beat, kicked, and stomped Tillman, who was later pronounced dead at the hospital as a result of a ruptured right ventricle of the heart caused by blunt impact. After a period of jury deliberation, the trial court declared the jury to be deadlocked on the issue of punishment. The trial court then sentenced Franklin to life without parole. The trial court denied Franklin’s motion for new trial. On appeal, Franklin claimed the prosecutor sought the death penalty in this case in bad faith, in an attempt to improve the odds of a conviction by seating a death-qualified jury. Even though the death penalty was not imposed, Franklin argued the Georgia Supreme Court should have granted a new trial where a bad-faith purpose for seeking the death penalty is shown. He argued that bad faith was demonstrated in this case because, pursuant to the notice of statutory aggravating circumstances and the evidence the State could (and ultimately did) present in support of these circumstances, he was not eligible for the death penalty as a matter of law. The Supreme Court determined the issue raised by Franklin’s appeal had been decided adversely to appellant’s position, and the Court was not persuaded to change its longstanding ruling on the issue. View "Franklin v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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The defendant was charged in adult criminal court with sex crimes allegedly committed in 2014 and 2015 when he was 14 and 15 years old. The law then in effect permitted the prosecutor to charge the case directly in adult court. After the charges were filed, the electorate passed Proposition 57, the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016,” prohibiting prosecutors from charging juveniles directly in adult court. Such actions must commence in juvenile court. If the prosecution wishes to try the juvenile as an adult, the juvenile court must conduct a “transfer hearing.” Only if the juvenile court transfers the matter to adult court can the juvenile be tried and sentenced as an adult (Welf. & Inst. Code, 707(a)). The Supreme Court of California held that the provision applies retroactively to all juveniles charged directly in adult court whose judgment was not final at the time it was enacted. The possibility of being treated as a juvenile in juvenile court—where rehabilitation is the goal—rather than being tried and sentenced as an adult can result in dramatically different and more lenient treatment, so Proposition 57 reduces the possible punishment for a class of persons, namely juveniles. Nothing in Proposition 57’s text or ballot materials rebuts this inference. View "People v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Brian Buckman pleaded guilty to second degree rape of a child. After sentencing, Buckman learned that he had been misinformed of the sentencing range that applied to him. Based on this misinformation, Buckman sought to withdraw his plea as involuntary. Because Buckman's motion to withdraw was a collateral attack on his judgment and sentence, he had to show that his plea was involuntary, and actual and substantial prejudice resulting from that error. The Washington Supreme Court concluded Buckman's plea was involuntary because he was misinformed that he might be sentenced to life in prison despite the fact that the statute provided that a sentence of life in prison could not apply to a 17-year-old (Buckman's age at the time of the offense). But the Court also held he was not entitled to withdraw his plea because he failed to show that the misinformation provided at the time of his plea caused him actual and substantial prejudice. As a result, the Supreme Court denied the motion to withdraw and remanded for resentencing only. View "Washington v. Buckman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which Appellant argued that he should be reentenced because his sentence of life imprisonment imposed for an offense committed when he was a juvenile violated the Eighth Amendment pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012). Appellant pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other crimes stemming from offenses Appellant committed when he was fifteen years old. Appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s habeas petition, holding that because a recent statutory amendment by the Arkansas General Assembly created the possibility of parole for Appellant, Appellant’s sentence did not violate the requirements of Miller. View "Lohbauer v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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Where an individual has been released on bail pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58 and there is probable cause to believe the individual committed a crime while released on bail, the Commonwealth may seek to revoke bail under either Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58 or Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58B. The judge must then make a determination as to whether the Commonwealth satisfied the requirements of either section 58 or section 58B, under which it sought to revoke bail. Here, the judge found probable cause to believe that a juvenile had committed a crime while released on bail under section 58. The juvenile argued that the judge erred in applying the ninety-day revocation period under section 58B. Specifically, the juvenile argued that the statutes create an ambiguous bit revocation framework, and therefore, the rule of lenity requires the applicable of the sixty-day revocation period under section 58. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) the bail revocation scheme is not ambiguous in its current form, and therefore, the rule of lenity does not apply; and (2) revoking bail under section 58B where an individual has been released on bail pursuant to section 58 and subsequently commits a crime while on release, does not violate due process. View "Josh J. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Neither the Due Process Clause nor the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., creates a categorical right to court-appointed counsel at government expense for alien minors. The Ninth Circuit held that, to the extent the IJ failed to provide all the trappings of a full and fair hearing in this case, any shortcomings did not prejudice the outcome because the IJ adequately developed the record on issues that were dispositive to petitioner's claims for relief. The panel also held that the IJ was not required to advise petitioner of a separate state court process that could ultimately form the predicate for petitioner's application for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status with the IJ. Finally, the panel declined to reversed the Board's denial of petitioner's asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT claims, because substantial evidence supported the BIA's determination that petitioner was ineligible for relief. View "C.J.L.G. v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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At age of 19, defendant Montrell Woods shot Kenny Hernandez to death during a confrontation between the two men at an apartment complex. A jury found defendant guilty of second degree murder and of being a felon in possession of a firearm and also found he personally discharged a firearm causing death. The trial court sentenced defendant to a term of 15 years to life for the murder and to a consecutive term of 25 years to life for the firearm enhancement under Penal Code section 12022.53. At the time of defendant’s sentencing, the enhancement statute provided that “[n]otwithstanding [Penal Code s]ection 1385 or any other provision of law, the court shall not strike an allegation under this section or a finding bringing a person within the provisions of this section.” On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred by failing to bifurcate the possession of a firearm charge from the murder charge, the court erroneously excluded evidence of the victim’s propensity for violence, the prosecutor committed two acts of misconduct, the court committed multiple instances of instructional error, and cumulative error resulted. Defendant also argued should have been remanded to the trial court so that he can make an adequate record for a future youth offender parole hearing and so that the trial court can exercise its discretion as to whether to strike the firearm enhancement based on a recent change to Penal Code section 12022.53 that took effect on January 1, 2018. In the unpublished portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal found no merit to defendant’s claims of trial court error and prosecutorial misconduct. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court concluded defendant already had sufficient opportunity to make a record of information relevant to his eventual youth offender parole hearing, but agree that remand was necessary to allow the trial court to exercise its discretion as to whether to strike the firearm enhancement under the recent amendment to Penal Code section 12022.53. View "California v. Woods" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed a dispositional order entered after the juvenile court sustained allegations that he committed misdemeanor sexual battery when he touched the breast of a female high school classmate. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the condition of probation forbidding him from using, owning or possessing depictions of nudity was unconstitutionally overbroad. View "In re Carlos C." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed a dispositional order entered after the juvenile court sustained allegations that he committed misdemeanor sexual battery when he touched the breast of a female high school classmate. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the condition of probation forbidding him from using, owning or possessing depictions of nudity was unconstitutionally overbroad. View "In re Carlos C." on Justia Law