Cal Court Disavows Life Terms for Juveniles

First District Court of Appeal
California Supreme Court

The California Supreme Court ruled a 110-year-to-life sentence imposed on a 16-year-old boy for a nonhomicide offense amounts to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.  The decision on Thursday overturns the sentence of Rodrigo Caballero, who opened fire on three other teenage boys who were rival gang members.

Caballero was convicted of attempted murder and committing crimes for the benefit of a criminal street gang, as well as other crimes.

The California court held that sentencing a juvenile to a term so long parole eligibility falls outside natural life expectancy constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the eight amendment.

The teenager cannot be deprived of an opportunity to show they are rehabilitated at some point in their lives.

The ruling tracks a U.S. Supreme Court decision based on a Florida case in 2010 that found a life-without-parole sentence for a juvenile was unconstitutional.

Although there is no guarantee that a juvenile will be released, he or she should have the opportunity to show they have been rehabilitated, according to Justice Ming Chin, writing for the unanimous court.

Case:  People v. Caballero, No. S190647


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