Lucero v. People, Supreme Court Case No. 13SC624

Docket NºSupreme Court Case No. 13SC624
Citation394 P.3d 1128
Case DateMay 22, 2017
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

394 P.3d 1128

Guy LUCERO, Petitioner,
v.
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.

Supreme Court Case No. 13SC624

Supreme Court of Colorado.

May 22, 2017


Attorneys for Petitioner: Hopkins Law LLC, James W. Hopkins, Loveland, Colorado, Samler & Whitson PC, Eric Samler, Hollis Whitson, Denver, Colorado

Attorneys for Respondent: Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, John T. Lee, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado

Attorney for Amicus Curiae Colorado Criminal Defense Bar: Philip A. Cherner, Denver, Colorado

Attorneys for Amici Curiae Juvenile Law Center, Colorado Juvenile Defender Center, Center for Children's Law and Policy, and Coalition for Juvenile Justice: Juvenile Law Center, Marsha Levick, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Colorado Juvenile Defender Center, Kim Dvorchak, Denver, Colorado

En Banc

JUSTICE EID delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 At age fifteen, Guy Lucero was charged with multiple offenses arising from a drive-by shooting in a neighborhood in Denver. He was charged and tried as an adult. At trial in 2006, two witnesses identified Lucero as one of the shooters, and the jury convicted him of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and two counts of second-degree assault. The trial court sentenced Lucero to consecutive term-of-years prison sentences for each count, aggravated as crimes of violence, resulting in an aggregate sentence of eighty-four years in the custody of the Department of Corrections. The court of appeals affirmed Lucero's convictions and sentences on direct appeal.

¶2 In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Graham v. Florida , 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010), that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile nonhomicide offender, concluding that states must "give defendants like Graham some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation." Subsequently, Lucero filed a motion pursuant to Rule 35(b) of the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure seeking reduction of his sentence. As relevant here, Lucero argued that his sentence must be reduced under Graham to meet constitutional standards, because an eighty-four-year sentence imposed on a juvenile carries the same implications as a sentence of life without parole. The trial court denied the motion following a hearing.

¶3 Lucero appealed the trial court's order, and the court of appeals affirmed. People v. Lucero (Lucero II ), 2013 COA 53, ¶ 1, ––– P.3d ––––. Treating his claim as one under Rule 35(c), id. at ¶ 5, the court held that Lucero's sentence was constitutional under both Graham and Miller v. Alabama , 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), reasoning that because Lucero would be eligible for parole at the age of fifty-seven, he has " ‘a meaningful opportunity for release’ during his natural lifetime," Lucero II , ¶ 12.

394 P.3d 1130

¶4 We granted certiorari and now affirm the court of appeals.1 Taking a different approach than the court of appeals, we hold that neither Graham nor Miller applies to an aggregate term-of-years sentence, which is the sentence Lucero challenges. In Graham , the U.S. Supreme Court held unconstitutional a life without parole sentence imposed on a juvenile for a single nonhomicide offense. 560 U.S. at 57, 82, 130 S.Ct. 2011. In Miller , the Court held that a sentence of "mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes" violates the Eighth Amendment. 132 S.Ct. at 2460. Life without parole is a specific sentence, distinct from sentences to terms of years. Lucero was not sentenced to life without parole. Rather, he received multiple term-of-years sentences for multiple convictions. Therefore, Graham and Miller are inapplicable to, and thus do not invalidate, Lucero's aggregate sentence. We also reject Lucero's argument that the court of appeals erred in treating his claim as one under Rule 35(c).

I.

¶5 In the early hours of June 25, 2005, Lucero, then fifteen years old, arrived at a birthday party his cousin was throwing for her brother. The party was at a house in a neighborhood in Denver. Upon arriving, Lucero asked his cousin for alcohol, but she refused to serve him. Lucero, a North Side Mafia gang member, then turned to another party attendee, D.H., a Bloods gang member, and, calling him a "slob"—a derogatory term used to describe Bloods members—demanded to know why he was allowed to drink. Lucero was either ordered to leave the party or left of his own accord. Before leaving, Lucero warned that he would return with his father, also a member of the North Side Mafia.

¶6 Lucero and his father did return. Once they were back at the party, Lucero's father lured D.H. out of the house. When D.H. walked outside, a car drove by, firing shots. Four people were shot and sustained non-fatal injuries. D.H. was not among those shot.

¶7 Lucero was charged with three counts of criminal attempt to commit first-degree murder, one count of first-degree assault, two counts of second-degree assault, and three counts of crime of violence in connection with the shooting, and he was tried as an adult. The complaint was later amended to add a charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. At trial in 2006 two witnesses identified Lucero as one of the shooters, and the jury convicted him of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and two counts of second-degree assault. The trial court sentenced him to term-of-years sentences for each count, aggravated as crimes of violence, to be served consecutively. Thus, Lucero received an aggregate sentence of eighty-four years in the custody of the Department of Corrections—thirty-two years each for the conspiracy and attempt charges, and ten years for each of the assault charges. The court of appeals affirmed Lucero's convictions and sentences on direct appeal. People v. Lucero , No. 07CA0774, slip op. at 1, 2009 WL 1915113 (Colo. App. July 2, 2009).

¶8 In July 2010, Lucero filed a motion for sentence reduction pursuant to Rule 35(b) of the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure.2 Lucero presented details of his difficult childhood, his mental health history, and a psychological evaluation in support of his motion. He also argued that, under Graham v. Florida , 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010), his aggregate sentence was the equivalent of a sentence of life without parole.

¶9 The trial court granted Lucero's request for a hearing on the motion. At the hearing, which proceeded by offer of proof, Lucero's counsel urged the court to consider Graham and argued that Lucero would die in prison before any meaningful opportunity for

394 P.3d 1131

release. The court ultimately denied Lucero's motion. In a written order, the court acknowledged Lucero's age at the time of his offenses, but concluded that the court had taken Lucero's youth into "significant consideration" at the time of sentencing, and the sentences were appropriate due to the nature of the crimes and the court's reservations about whether Lucero had accepted full responsibility for his acts.

¶10 Lucero appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed the order. Lucero II , ¶ 1. First, the court of appeals noted the People's argument that Lucero's claim is unreviewable under Rule 35(b), but it declined to rule on the issue. Id. at ¶ 5. Instead, the court found review available under Rule 35(c)(2)(I), which allows for post-conviction review where a defendant alleges that a conviction or sentence violates the U.S. Constitution.3 Id. Second, the court rejected Lucero's contention that his aggregate sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and thus violates the Eighth Amendment under Graham and Miller . Id. at ¶ 1. The court found that Lucero has a "meaningful opportunity for release" because he will be eligible for parole at age fifty-seven, and the natural life expectancy of a person born the year of Lucero's birth is seventy-five years. Id. at ¶¶ 12–13.

¶11 Lucero petitioned this court to review the court of appeals' holding on the merits as well as its treatment of his Rule 35(b) appeal as a Rule 35(c) appeal. We granted certiorari.4 We now hold that Graham and Miller do not apply to consecutive term-of-years sentences imposed for multiple convictions. Whereas the court of appeals upheld Lucero's sentence on the grounds that it complies with Graham by providing a "meaningful opportunity for release," we conclude that Graham and Miller do not apply to, and therefore do not invalidate, Lucero's aggregate term-of-years sentence. We also hold that the court of appeals did not err when it treated his claim as one under Rule 35(c). Accordingly, we affirm the court of appeals.

II.

¶12 First, we consider whether Graham and Miller apply to aggregate term-of-years sentences and conclude that they do not.5 We then address whether the court of appeals erred in treating Lucero's claim as one under Rule 35(c), and conclude that it did not.

A.

¶13 Lucero's claim that his sentence is unconstitutional under Graham and Miller is a constitutional challenge, which we review de novo. Villanueva v. People ,...

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40 practice notes
  • Willbanks v. Mo. Dep't of Corr., No. SC 95395
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 11 Julio 2017
    ...Court and held that Graham and Miller do not apply to prohibit multiple fixed-term sentences for juvenile offenders. Lucero v. People , 394 P.3d 1128, 1133 (Colo. 2017) ("Multiple sentences imposed for multiple offenses do not become a sentence of life without parole, even though they may r......
  • Commonwealth v. Foust, No. 1118 WDA 2016
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • 21 Febrero 2018
    ...; State v. Ali , 895 N.W.2d 237 (Minn. 2017), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S.Ct. 640, 199 L.Ed.2d 543 (2018) ; Lucero v. People , 394 P.3d 1128 (Colo. 2017), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S.Ct. 641, 199 L.Ed.2d 544 (2018) ; Va s quez v. Commonwealth , 291 Va. 232, 781 S.E.2d 920 (2......
  • McCullough v. State, No. 1081, Sept. Term, 2016.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 30 Agosto 2017
    ...of Virginia , 291 Va. 232, 781 S.E.2d 920 (2016), cert. denied ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S.Ct. 568, 196 L.Ed.2d 448 (2016) ; Lucero v. People , 394 P.3d 1128 (Co. 2017) ; People v. Rainer , 394 P.3d 1141 (Co. 2017) ; Willbanks v. Dep't of Corrections , 522 S.W.3d 238, 2017 WL 2952445 (Mo. 2017), p......
  • People v. Contreras, S224564
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 26 Febrero 2018
    ...of the juvenile offender's life expectancy. (E.g., Bunch v. Smith (6th Cir. 2012) 685 F.3d 546, 552 ; Lucero v. People (Colo. 2017) 394 P.3d 1128, 1133 ; State v. Brown (La. 2013) 118 So.3d 332, 342 ; Willbanks v. Dept. of Corrections (Mo. 2017) 522 S.W.3d 238, 246–247.)3 Other courts—inclu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • Willbanks v. Mo. Dep't of Corr., No. SC 95395
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 11 Julio 2017
    ...Court and held that Graham and Miller do not apply to prohibit multiple fixed-term sentences for juvenile offenders. Lucero v. People , 394 P.3d 1128, 1133 (Colo. 2017) ("Multiple sentences imposed for multiple offenses do not become a sentence of life without parole, even though they may r......
  • Commonwealth v. Foust, No. 1118 WDA 2016
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • 21 Febrero 2018
    ...; State v. Ali , 895 N.W.2d 237 (Minn. 2017), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S.Ct. 640, 199 L.Ed.2d 543 (2018) ; Lucero v. People , 394 P.3d 1128 (Colo. 2017), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S.Ct. 641, 199 L.Ed.2d 544 (2018) ; Va s quez v. Commonwealth , 291 Va. 232, 781 S.E.2d 920 (2......
  • McCullough v. State, No. 1081, Sept. Term, 2016.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 30 Agosto 2017
    ...of Virginia , 291 Va. 232, 781 S.E.2d 920 (2016), cert. denied ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S.Ct. 568, 196 L.Ed.2d 448 (2016) ; Lucero v. People , 394 P.3d 1128 (Co. 2017) ; People v. Rainer , 394 P.3d 1141 (Co. 2017) ; Willbanks v. Dep't of Corrections , 522 S.W.3d 238, 2017 WL 2952445 (Mo. 2017), p......
  • People v. Contreras, S224564
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 26 Febrero 2018
    ...of the juvenile offender's life expectancy. (E.g., Bunch v. Smith (6th Cir. 2012) 685 F.3d 546, 552 ; Lucero v. People (Colo. 2017) 394 P.3d 1128, 1133 ; State v. Brown (La. 2013) 118 So.3d 332, 342 ; Willbanks v. Dept. of Corrections (Mo. 2017) 522 S.W.3d 238, 246–247.)3 Other courts—inclu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles

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