People v. Contreras, S224564

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation411 P.3d 445,4 Cal.5th 349,229 Cal.Rptr.3d 249
Docket NumberS224564
Decision Date26 February 2018
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Leonel CONTRERAS and William Steven Rodriguez, Defendants and Appellants.

4 Cal.5th 349
411 P.3d 445
229 Cal.Rptr.3d 249

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Leonel CONTRERAS and William Steven Rodriguez, Defendants and Appellants.

S224564

Supreme Court of California

Filed February 26, 2018
As Modified April 11, 2018


Nancy J. King, San Diego, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant Leonel Contreras.

Daniel J. Kessler, San Diego, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant William S. Rodriguez.

L. Richard Braucher, Richmond, and Susan L. Burrell for Pacific Juvenile Defender Center as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Joshua Klein, Deputy State Solicitor General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Arlene A. Sevidal, Meredith S. White, Steven T. Oetting and Tami Falkenstein Hennick, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

LIU, J.

4 Cal.5th 356

Defendants Leonel Contreras and William Rodriguez were convicted in a joint trial of kidnapping and sexual offenses they committed as 16 year olds. Rodriguez was sentenced to a term of 50 years to life, and Contreras was sentenced to a term of 58 years to life. We granted review to determine whether the sentences imposed on these juvenile nonhomicide offenders violate the Eighth Amendment as interpreted in People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262, 268, 145 Cal.Rptr.3d 286, 282 P.3d 291 ( Caballero ) and Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 ( Graham ). We hold that these sentences are unconstitutional under the reasoning of Graham .

4 Cal.5th 357

I.

On September 3, 2011, Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 attended a birthday party for Doe 1's uncle in the Rancho Peñasquitos area of San Diego County. Doe 1 was 16 years old, and Doe 2 was 15 years old. In the evening, Doe 1 and Doe 2 went for a walk to a greenbelt nearby and sat near a tree to talk. Two teenagers, later identified as Contreras and Rodriguez, walked past them dressed in dark clothing and with their hoods up. Shortly thereafter, defendants walked up behind Doe 1 and Doe 2, tackled them, and forced them to walk across the street, up an embankment, and into a vegetated area. Contreras held a knife to Doe 1's neck and told her to tell Doe 2 to "shut the fuck up" multiple times. Rodriguez covered Doe 2's mouth with his hand, tied a bandana around her mouth, and threatened to hurt her if she screamed. Doe 2 repeatedly tried to get away, fell once from struggling, and at one point bit Rodriguez's hand.

Rodriguez raped and sodomized Doe 2. Contreras raped Doe 1 and forced her to orally copulate him. Rodriguez then raped and sodomized Doe 1 and forced her to orally copulate him. Contreras put a knife to Doe 2's neck, raped her, and forced her to orally copulate him. Rodriguez forced

229 Cal.Rptr.3d 251

Doe 2 and then Doe 1 to orally copulate him. Defendants then told Doe 1 and Doe 2 to get dressed. Rodriguez told Doe 1 and Doe 2 not to tell anyone what happened. One of the defendants said they would follow Doe 1 and Doe 2 home and come after them and one of Doe 1's family members if they told anyone what had happened. Doe 1 and Doe 2 walked to the street and saw Doe 1's parents, who had been searching for them.

In 2012, defendants were charged as adults under former Welfare and Institutions Code section 707, subdivisions (d)(1) and (d)(2)(A) (amended by Prop. 57, § 4.2, eff. Nov. 9, 2016) and were jointly tried before separate juries. A jury convicted Contreras of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and forcible rape ( Pen. Code, § 182, subd. (a)(1) ; all undesignated statutory references are to this code), rape by foreign object (§ 289, subd. (a)(1)(A) ), two counts of kidnapping (§ 207, subd. (a) ), seven counts of forcible rape (§ 261, subd. (a)(2) ), eight counts of forcible oral copulation (§ 288a, subd. (c)(2)(A) ), and two counts of sodomy by use of force (§ 286, subd. (c)(2)(A) ). The jury found true allegations that Contreras committed the crimes with use of a knife (§ 12022.3, subd. (a) ) as

411 P.3d 447

well as allegations that many of the sexual assault crimes were committed during a kidnapping, against more than one victim, and with a knife within the meaning of subdivisions (d)(2), (e)(1), (e)(3), and (e)(4) of section 667.61, the "One Strike" law.

On the same day, a jury convicted Rodriguez of two counts of kidnapping (§ 207, subd. (a) ), two counts of forcible rape (§ 261, subd. (a)(2) ), four

4 Cal.5th 358

counts of forcible oral copulation (§ 288a, subd. (c)(2)(A) ), and two counts of sodomy by use of force (§ 286, subd. (c)(2)(A) ). The jury found true allegations that Rodriguez had committed the sexual assault crimes during a kidnapping and against multiple victims within the meaning of subdivisions (d)(2) and (e)(4) of section 667.61.

At defendants' sentencing hearings, the parties and the trial court agreed that the court could not impose the statutory maximum sentences of several hundred years, as those sentences would fall outside of defendants' natural life expectancies. At Rodriguez's hearing, defense counsel noted that Rodriguez had no criminal history, and the court acknowledged his "very difficult upbringing." But the court said, "I have to weigh that against the horrible scars that you have left on these two girls." The court then sentenced Rodriguez to two consecutive terms of 25 years to life. The court observed that it was required to sentence Rodriguez to additional consecutive terms of 25 years to life under section 667.61, subdivision (i) but reasoned that doing so would violate Graham and Caballero .

At Contreras's hearing, defense counsel noted that Contreras had no arrests and one prior misdemeanor for vandalism. The court said, "I think that Mr. Rodriguez was a follower. Mr. Contreras was the shot caller." The trial judge identified the "brutal and callous and ruthless" nature of the crimes and expressed skepticism about Contreras's ability to rehabilitate: "I think his brain is developed into who he is ...." Based on these factors, among others, the court stated, "I think that it's only appropriate that he suffer the same punishment that Mr. Rodriguez did and plus he used a knife, so he should get a little bit more." The court sentenced Contreras to two consecutive terms of 25 years to life in addition to two four-year terms and imposed many additional concurrent or stayed sentences. The trial judge concluded by noting, "If I could sentence you to 640 years to life, I would have. ... Because you were a minor, you were spared that sentence."

229 Cal.Rptr.3d 252

Defendants appealed their convictions and sentences on multiple grounds. The Court of Appeal affirmed the convictions but reversed defendants' sentences. It held that the sentences "preclude any possibility of parole until [defendants] are near the end of their lifetimes" and thus "fall[ ] short of giving them the realistic chance for release contemplated by Graham ." The Court of Appeal remanded the matter to the trial court for resentencing, with instructions to consider the circumstances of the crimes, including the existence of multiple victims, together with all mitigating circumstances, and to impose a parole eligibility date consistent with the holding in Graham .

We granted review and deferred briefing pending our decision in People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261, 202 Cal.Rptr.3d 496, 370 P.3d 1053

4 Cal.5th 359

Franklin ). In Franklin , we held that juvenile homicide offenders may not be sentenced to the functional equivalent of life without parole (LWOP) without certain protections afforded by the Eighth Amendment as interpreted in Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 ( Miller ). ( Franklin , at p. 276, 202 Cal.Rptr.3d 496, 370 P.3d 1053.) The defendant there had been sentenced to 50 years to life for first degree murder, and he claimed that his sentence was the functional equivalent of LWOP and was imposed in violation of Miller . We held that because section 3051 entitles Franklin to a youth offender parole hearing during his 25th year of incarceration, his sentence "is neither LWOP nor its functional equivalent" and thus gives rise to "no Miller claim." ( Franklin , at p. 280, 202 Cal.Rptr.3d 496, 370 P.3d 1053.)

A youth offender parole hearing is not available to juveniles convicted under the One Strike law, as defendants were here. (§ 3051, subd. (h).) Because Franklin does

411 P.3d 448

not resolve this case, we ordered briefing to address whether Rodriguez's sentence of 50 years to life or Contreras's sentence of 58 years to life violates the Eighth Amendment.

II.

The Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment "flows from the basic ' "precept of justice that punishment for crime should be graduated and...

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  • People v. Contreras, S224564
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • February 26, 2018
    ...4 Cal.5th 349411 P.3d 445229 Cal.Rptr.3d 249The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,v.Leonel CONTRERAS and William Steven Rodriguez, Defendants and Appellants.S224564Supreme Court of CaliforniaFiled February 26, 2018As Modified April 11, 2018Nancy J. King, San Diego, under appointment by the S......

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