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In re Alatriste

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Second Division

October 29, 2013

In re JOSE ARMANDO ALATRISTE, on Habeas Corpus. n re JOSEPH BONILLA, on Habeas Corpus.

ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS. Petitions for writ of habeas corpus denied Los Angeles County Super. Ct. Nos. BA344055, BA320049.

Law Offices of Allen G. Weinberg and Allen G. Weinberg for Petitioner Jose Armando Alatriste.

Law Offices of Allen G. Weinberg and Derek K. Kowata for Petitioner Joseph Bonilla.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Lawrence M. Daniels, Timothy M. Weiner, and David F. Glassman, Deputy Attorneys General, for Respondent.

BOREN, P. J.

INTRODUCTION

These cases concern a recurring issue in juvenile sentencing. A juvenile is charged with committing one or more serious or violent felonies, with various sentence enhancement allegations. The juvenile is tried as an adult, convicted, and sentenced to a lengthy term that, while authorized by statute, is the functional equivalent of a life sentence because the defendant has no meaningful chance of being released on parole in his or her lifetime. The United States Supreme Court has held that a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, when imposed upon a defendant who was under the age of 18 at the time of his or her crime, violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. (Miller v. Alabama (2012) ___ U.S. ___, [132 S.Ct. 2455] (Miller) [prohibiting mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for defendant who committed capital murder at age 14]; Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48, [130 S.Ct. 2011] (Graham) [prohibiting life without parole sentence for juvenile who did not commit homicide].) In People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262 (Caballero), the California Supreme Court, citing Graham, held that a sentence of 110 years to life for a juvenile convicted of attempted murder violated the Eighth Amendment because the defendant’s parole eligibility date would fall outside his natural life expectancy and was therefore the “functional equivalent” of a life without parole sentence.

Petitioners Jose Armando Alatriste and Joseph Bonilla committed homicides as juveniles and were sentenced to lengthy state prison terms (77 years to life and 50 years to life, respectively). We affirmed the convictions of both petitioners (Bonilla in March 2009 and Alatriste in December 2011).

In April 2013, Alatriste and Bonilla each filed a habeas corpus petition, alleging that his sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. We summarily denied both petitions.

On July 17, 2013, the California Supreme Court granted each petitioner’s petition for review. In each case, the court directed us to issue an order to the Director of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to show cause why the petitioner was not entitled to relief based on his claim that his sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment because it offered no meaningful opportunity for release on parole, and why Miller should not be accorded retroactive effect.

At its 2013-2014 session, the Legislature enacted Senate Bill No. 260 (SB 260), which amends the California Penal Code to address the sentencing concerns expressed in Miller, Graham and Caballero.[1] SB 260, which will take effect January 1, 2014, provides a mechanism -- a “juvenile opportunity parole hearing” -- that affords juvenile defendants such as petitioners a meaningful opportunity for release on parole at a time far sooner than their lengthy sentences might otherwise allow. SB 260 also renders moot the issue of whether Miller should apply retroactively to petitioners’ cases because it applies to “any prisoner who was under 18 years of age at the time of his or her controlling offense.” (SB 260 (2013-2014 Reg. Sess.) Sept. 16, 2013, new § 3051, subd. (a).)

FACTS

Alatriste

On the evening of July 9, 2007, Alatriste, a 16-year-old member of the East Los Angeles Trece gang, fired an estimated 16 rounds from a.40-caliber semiautomatic weapon into a group containing rival gang members. One of the group, Primo Garcia, was shot in the face and neck. Garcia suffered permanent brain injury and was able to breathe only with the assistance of a ventilator. In February 2008, while living in a long-term ...


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