Luna v. State, 120216 OKCRI, F-2015-562

Docket Nº:F-2015-562
Opinion Judge:JOHNSON, JUDGE
Party Name:CHANCEY ALLEN LUNA, Appellant, v. THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA, Appellee.
Attorney:APPEARANCES AT TRIAL JAMES W. BERRY HOWARD BERRY ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANT APPEARANCES AT TRIAL JAMES W. BERRY HOWARD BERRY ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANT APPEARANCES ON APPEAL WYNDI THOMAS HOBBS ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT E. SCOTT PRUITT OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM R. HOLMES ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL ...
Judge Panel:SMITH, P.J.: Concurs LUMPKIN, V.P.J.: Concurs in Part and Dissents in Part LEWIS, J.: Concurs HUDSON, J.: Concurs in Part and Dissents in Part LUMPKIN, VICE PRESIDING JUDGE: CONCURRING IN PART/DISSENTING PART. HUDSON, JUDGE: CONCURRING IN PART/DISSENTING IN PART
Case Date:December 02, 2016
Court:Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
 
FREE EXCERPT

2016 OK CR 27

CHANCEY ALLEN LUNA, Appellant,

v.

THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA, Appellee.

No. F-2015-562

Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma

December 2, 2016

AN APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF STEPHENS COUNTY THE HONORABLE KEN J. GRAHAM, DISTRICT JUDGE

APPEARANCES AT TRIAL JAMES W. BERRY HOWARD BERRY ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANT

APPEARANCES AT TRIAL JAMES W. BERRY HOWARD BERRY ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANT

APPEARANCES ON APPEAL WYNDI THOMAS HOBBS ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT

E. SCOTT PRUITT OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM R. HOLMES ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE

OPINION

JOHNSON, JUDGE

¶1 A jury convicted Appellant Chancey Allen Luna of First Degree Murder in violation of 21 O.S.Supp.2012, § 701.7 (B), in the District Court of Stephens County, Case No. CF-2013-279. The jury assessed punishment at life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Honorable Ken J. Graham, District Judge, who presided at trial, sentenced Luna accordingly. From this Judgment and Sentence Luna appeals, raising the following issues: (1) whether the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution precludes sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders;

(2) whether he is entitled to a constitutionally valid sentencing hearing;

(3) whether he was deprived of his due process rights when the district court failed to give his requested instruction on Second Degree Murder;

(4) whether his counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to present evidence and argument relating to the imposition of a sentence of life without the possibility of parole on a juvenile offender; and

(5) whether the accumulation of errors deprived him of a fair proceeding.

¶2 We affirm Luna's conviction for First Degree Murder, vacate his sentence of life without the possibility of parole and remand the matter to the district court for resentencing. Because of the resolution of this case, we need not address Luna's ineffective assistance of counsel or cumulative error claims. 1

Background

¶3 Appellant Luna shot and killed Christopher Lane on August 16, 2013. 2 Luna fired the fatal shot from the backseat of a black Ford Focus driven by Michael Jones as Lane was jogging alone down a road in Duncan, Oklahoma. James Edwards, Jr., who was in the car in the front passenger seat, cooperated with the prosecution and testified against Luna in exchange for a reduced charge. 3 Edwards' testimony was corroborated by direct and circumstantial evidence.

Constitutionality of Life Without Parole Sentence

¶4 Luna, who was 16 years old at the time of the murder, contends his sentence of life without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional under both the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 2, Section 9 of the Oklahoma Constitution. 4 He maintains that he is entitled to resentencing or sentence modification. 5

¶5 The Eighth Amendment principles of law governing juvenile sentencing have evolved significantly in United States Supreme Court precedents over the past few years, specifically in Graham v. Florida, [6] Miller v. Alabama, 7 and Montgomery v. Louisiana, supra. We briefly discuss these decisions as a framework for our federal constitutional analysis.

¶6 In 2010, the Court held in Graham that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a juvenile offender from being sentenced to life in prison without parole for nonhomicide crimes. Graham, 560 U.S. at 79, 130 S.Ct. at 2032-33. The Graham Court was the first to apply a categorical classification under the Eighth Amendment to a so-called "term-of-years" sentence. Id. at 61, 130 S.Ct. at 2022. The defendant in Graham committed the crimes of armed burglary and attempted armed robbery when he was sixteen years old and he was sentenced to the maximum term on both crimes: life imprisonment for the armed burglary, and fifteen years for the attempted armed robbery. Id. at 57, 130 S.Ct. at 2020. Because the State of Florida had abolished its parole system, the life sentence imposed on Graham was, in effect, a mandatory life term.

Id. The Court held that Graham's sentence violated the Eighth Amendment because it "guarantees he will die in prison without any meaningful opportunity to obtain release, no matter what he might do to demonstrate that the bad acts he committed as a teenager are not representative of his true character, even if he spends the next half century attempting to atone for his crimes and learn from his mistakes." Id. at 79, 130 S.Ct. at 2033.

¶7 In reaching its decision, the Graham Court found an emerging national consensus against mandatory imposition of life terms upon juvenile nonhomicide offenders. Id. at 67, 130 S.Ct. at 2026. Relying on its reasoning in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183, 161 L.Ed.2d 1 (2005) holding the death penalty unconstitutional for murder defendants who were under 18 at the time of their capital crimes, the Court noted that juvenile offenders have a lessened moral culpability as compared to adult offenders, and they are less deserving of the most severe punishments. Id. at 68, 130 S.Ct. at 2026, 176 L.Ed.2d at 841. The Court further found that penological goals in retribution, deterrence or incapacitation were insufficient to justify sentences of life without parole for juvenile nonhomicide offenders. Id. at 71-74, 130 S.Ct. at 2028-30. Although the Graham Court concluded that all mandatory life sentences for juvenile nonhomicide offenders are unconstitutional, it tempered that holding explaining that A State is not required to guarantee eventual freedom to a juvenile offender convicted of a nonhomicide crime. What the State must do, however, is give defendants like Graham some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. It is for the State, in the first instance, to explore the means and mechanisms for compliance. It bears emphasis, however, that while the Eighth Amendment forbids a State from imposing a life without parole sentence on a juvenile nonhomicide offender, it does not require the State to release that offender during his natural life. Those who commit truly horrifying crimes as juveniles may turn out to be irredeemable, and thus deserving of incarceration for the duration of their lives. The Eighth Amendment does not foreclose the possibility that persons convicted of nonhomicide crimes committed before adulthood will remain behind bars for life. It does forbid States from making the judgment at the outset that those offenders never will be fit to reenter society.

Id. at 75, 130 S.Ct. at 2030.

¶8 Two years after Graham, the Court decided Miller and extended its Graham holding to juveniles convicted of homicide offenses. Miller, supra, 567 U.S. at ___, 132 S.Ct. at 2469. The Court in Miller declared unconstitutional any statutory sentencing scheme that mandated a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders. Id. Miller involved the consolidated appeals of two juveniles who were fourteen years old at the time they committed their respective homicide crimes. Id. at ___, 132 S.Ct. at 2460. Both were tried as adults and eventually sentenced to life without parole terms. Id. State law in each case mandated life without parole and stripped the trial judges of any discretion to deviate from that maximum penalty. Id. In considering these circumstances, the Miller Court reaffirmed its reasoning in Graham concerning the diminished culpability of juvenile offenders as compared to adult offenders. Id. at ___, 132 S.Ct. at 2464-69. The Court explained that "none of what [Graham] said about children--about their distinctive (and transitory) mental traits and environmental vulnerabilities--is crime-specific." Id. at ___, 132 S.Ct. at 2465. Much of the Graham reasoning is therefore applicable to any life without parole sentence imposed on a juvenile. Id. As the majority in Miller observed: [T]he mandatory penalty schemes at issue here prevent the sentencer from taking account of these central considerations. By removing youth from the balance--by subjecting a juvenile to the same life-without-parole sentence applicable to an adult--these laws prohibit a sentencing authority from assessing whether the law's harshest term of imprisonment proportionately punishes a juvenile offender. That contravenes Graham's (and also Roper's) foundational principle: that imposition of a State's most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children.

Id. at ___, 132 S.Ct. at 2466.

¶9 Unlike Graham, however, Miller placed no categorical prohibition against the imposition of life without parole sentences on juvenile homicide offenders, so long as the sentencing judge...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP