People v. Gutierrez
NJDC joins Juvenile Law Center and several other organizations in an amicus brief filed in the California Supreme Court in support of the position that the presumptive penalty of life without parole for 16- and 17-year-old juveniles convicted of homicide with special circumstances violates the Eighth Amendment and runs counter to the United States Supreme Court’s decision of Miller v. Alabama.
Amici argued that deviation from the presumption requires exceptional circumstances far beyond those deemed satisfactory under Miller‘s individualized sentencing requirement. Amici asserted the presumptive sentence contradicts the Miller Court’s determination that sentencing juveniles to the harshest possible penalty, such as LWOP, should be “uncommon.” Amici also argued that the statute contravenes Miller’s requirement of individualized sentencing, because the statute does not allow for a careful balancing of individualized factors relating to the juveniles culpability. In this case, the sentencing judge did not analyze how the defendant’s age and development may have influenced his actions and involvement, nor did the court review other related characteristics such as potential for rehabilitation as required by Miller. Finally, amici also argued that a meaningful opportunity for release standard, as discussed in Graham v. Florida, should be afforded to all juveniles.
Court: California Supreme Court
Filed: September 18, 2013 (download .pdf)
Amicus Brief Discusses: Adolescent Development; Juvenile Life Without Parole Post-Miller; Sentencing
Oral Argument: Pending