Juvenile Sentence of 100 Years Is Cruel and Unusual?
Both Hernandez and Argeta were charged with one count of murder (Penal Code 187 (a)) and five counts of attempted, willful, deliberate and premeditated murder (Penal Code § § 664, 187(a)). It was alleged as to all counts that the offenses were committed for the benefits of a criminal street gang (Penal Code § 186.22 (b) (1)) and that there was an intentional discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury and death (Penal Code § 12022.53 (d) and (e) (1)). Hernandez was charged as an adult.Main Point: Sentence for juvenile of 100 years is cruel and unusual punishment for aiding and abetting murder.
The jury in the first trial was unable to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared. In the second trial, the jury found defendants guilty on all counts. It found the murder to be in the first degree. Hernandez was convicted as an aider and abettor, Argeta as the principal.
The judge sentenced Argeta to 100 years to life, based on 1) 25 years to life for first degree murder; 2) 25 years to life for the firearm enhancement; 3) a life term for each attempted murder; plus 4) 25 years to life for the firearm enhanced regarding the injury to the teenager shot in the chest.
Hernandez was sentenced to the same sentence and appealed to the Second Appellate District. Both he and Argeta would not be eligible for parole until serving 75 years in prison.
Hernandez’s appeal listed many grounds to appeal the convictions, as well as the sentence. This article will only focus on the appeal of Hernandez’s sentence.
The Second Appellate District, in ruling on Hernandez’s appeal, also looked to California cases on this issue. In People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal. 4th 262, the California Supreme Court found that when a juvenile is sentenced to minimum terms that exceed his or her life expectancy, the sentence is the functional equivalent of a life sentence without the possibility of parole and was unconstitutional. Turning to Hernandez’s sentence, the Second Appellate court held that his sentence must be reversed. It then ordered the case remanded to the trial court for resentencing on all counts.
Lastly, it merits mention that Argeta, age eighteen and five months at the time of the shooting, also alleged his sentence of 100 years was also cruel and unusual punishment, under the same rational as applied to Hernandez. The Second Appellate District rejected their argument, pointing out that drawing the line at age 18 is the line our society draws as the distinction between childhood and adulthood. The court refused to make an exception, as it would open the door to the next defendant who is only six months into adulthood, leading to no logical end to sentencing challenges.
For more information about the limits of long sentences for juveniles, click on the following articles:
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