April 24, 2017

Habeas petition, not sentence recall, is proper way to challenge juvenile LWOP sentence

In In re Kirchner, the Supreme Court today holds a prisoner can use a habeas corpus petition to challenge a life-without-parole sentence for a murder he committed 24 years ago when he was 16.  The court’s unanimous opinion by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye concludes that the prisoner need not use a different, “selective and qualified” procedure — seeking to recall his sentence — because that is not an adequate remedy for analyzing whether a juvenile life sentence meets certain constitutional standards specified in a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The court reverses the Fourth District, Division One, Court of Appeal.  Interestingly, a different panel of the same appellate court subsequently disagreed with the opinion of the panel in this case, and one Court of Appeal justice concurred in both opinions.  The Supreme Court granted review in that other case also.  In light of its opinion today, the court will likely dismiss review in the later case in a few months and leave that case’s opinion published.

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