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There is no independent requirement that a court imposing a sentence of life without the possibility of parole on a juvenile defendant meaningfully engage in a permanent-incorrigibility analysis

California

,

USA

Courts Are Not Required to Find Permanent Incorrigibility to Sentence a Juvenile Defendant to Life Without the Possibility of Parole In United States v. Briones, No. 16-10150 (9th Cir. Dec. 6, 2021), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit considered whether a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (“LWOP”) imposed on a juvenile was valid after the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Jones v. Mississippi, 141 S.Ct. 1307 (2021) (“Jones”). Permanent incorrigibility is not an eligibility criterion for the imposition of juvenile LWOP sentences The defendant argued that the District Court erred when it imposed an LWOP sentence on him for a felony murder conviction where the homicide occurred prior to his eighteenth birthday without properly analyzing whether his juvenile crimes rendered him incorrigible. The Court disagreed and noted that during the pendency of the defendant’s petition, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Jones. Jones was a case that the United States Supreme Court took for the express purpose of clarifying how to interpret Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. 190 (2016). In Jones, the Supreme Court held that in cases involving juvenile LWOP defendants, a discretionary sentencing system, where the sentencer can consider the defendant’s youth and has the discretion to impose a lesser sentence than LWOP, is constitutionally sufficient. Additionally, the Court held that permanent incorrigibility is not an eligibility criterion for the imposition of juvenile LWOP sentences and a sentence need not provide an on-the-record explanation with an implicit finding of permanent incorrigibility. The District Court properly considered the defendant’s youth and its attendant characteristics The Court noted that the District Court had the discretion to consider the defendant’s youth in imposing a sentence less than LWOP and in this case, the District Court addressed the defendant’s youth on the record. By addressing the consideration of the defendant’s youth on the record, the District Court did more than was required before imposing an LWOP sentence on a juvenile. LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders remain constitutional The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that LWOP sentences should be categorically banned as unconstitutional for any juvenile offender, or, for juvenile homicide offenders convicted under the felony murder rule. The Court noted that existing law did not support the defendant’s argument and rejected it. Disposition The Court affirmed the LWOP sentence for the defendant who was convicted of committing murder when he was 17 years old under the felony murder rule.

April 14, 2022
United States v. Briones, No. 16-10150 (9th Cir. Dec. 6, 2021)
Federal Courts (9th Circuit)