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California Supreme Court: 110-year sentence for juvenile violates the law

California State Seal - Supreme court

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The California Supreme Court has overturned a 110-year sentence for a Los Angeles teen.

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that when it comes to crime, children are different than adults. They're less able to understand their actions, more able to reform their ways, and are therefore less culpable for their actions.

Thats why in a case called Graham v. Florida, the court decided kids could not be sentenced to life without parole, except in murder cases, even though adults can receive the sentence for a variety of crimes.

But what about sentencing them to really, really long terms?

That issue came up in a case out of Los Angeles County, in which a 16-year-old shot at three rival gang members, wounding one in the shoulder. 

Rodrigo Caballero was convicted of three counts of attempted murder and sentenced to three consecutive terms. That meant Caballero would first become eligible for parole after 110 years in prison. Caballero appealed his sentence, arguing it violated the Graham ruling, which "holds that the Eighth Amendment requires the state to afford the juvenile offender a 'meaningful opportunity to obtain release.'"

Prosecutors, meanwhile, said the Graham ruling was not intended to apply to attempted murder cases, and technically, Caballero would eventually, should he live long enough, have the chance to get out.

California's Supreme Court justices sided with Caballero, conlcluding that "sentencing a juvenile offender for a nonhomicide offense to a term of years with a parole eligibility date that falls outside the juvenile offender's natural life expectancy constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment."

The court then instructed lower courts to accept petitions from juveniles serving similar punishments for new sentences.

 

Caballero

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