The Supreme Court yesterday denied review in People v. Montelongo, where the Second District, Division Seven, Court of Appeal, in a published opinion, affirmed a life-without-parole sentence for a murder committed when the defendant was 18 years old. There were no recorded dissenting votes, but Justice Goodwin Liu wrote an extended separate concurring statement.
Justice Liu’s statement is about legislation — Penal Code section 3051 — that requires parole hearings for those who committed crimes when they were under 25, except for crimes committed by 18- to 25-year-olds that result in life-without-parole sentences. Agreeing with the Court of Appeal concurring opinion by Justice John Segal, Justice Liu writes “to underscore that section 3051’s parole eligibility scheme — specifically, its exclusion of persons sentenced to life without parole for offenses committed between ages 18 and 25 — stands in ‘tension’ with Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. 460.” He says, “In light of the high court’s clear statement that the mitigating attributes of youth are not ‘crime-specific’ [citation] and our Legislature’s recognition that those attributes are found in young adults up to age 25, it is questionable whether there is a rational basis for section 3051’s exclusion of 18- to 25-year-olds sentenced to life without parole.” He also joins Justice Segal in encouraging the Legislature to reevaluate section 3051’s limitation.
Justice Liu’s separate statement concurs in the denial of review, instead of dissenting, apparently for the same reason that Justice Segal concurred and didn’t dissent in the Court of Appeal (indeed, Segal also authored the appellate court’s opinion) — the defendant didn’t raise an equal protection argument until his appellant’s reply brief.
In 2015, Justice Liu revived a long-dormant practice of issuing separate statements upon the court’s denial of review, and he has done so on several occasions since then. (See recently here and here.)