The Supreme Court yesterday denied review in People v. Mota. There were no recorded dissenting votes, but Justice Joshua Groban, joined by Justices Goodwin Liu and Kelli Evans, filed a concurring statement to express discomfort with the result and to offer suggestions about other avenues of relief for the defendant.

The Fourth District, Division Two, Court of Appeal unpublished opinion in the case held the superior court “acted within its circumscribed discretion in denying defendant’s motion to strike his prior strike conviction findings.” In 1997, the defendant was sentenced to 25 years to life for a petty theft conviction of stealing a pair of jeans. The long prison sentence was due to “strikes” incurred for a rape-kidnapping-robbery conviction almost 20 years earlier, when the defendant was 18 years old.

Justice Groban wrote that he agreed with the Division Two opinion given the applicable “highly deferential standard of [appellate] review.” But, he continued, “The troubling fact remains . . . that defendant, now in his mid- 60s and suffering from numerous medical ailments, has spent over 27 years in prison for stealing a pair of jeans — conduct that can be sentenced as a misdemeanor under current law. [Citations.] By comparison, the median time served in state prison before initial release for murder is 17.5 years. [Citation.]”

He then “highlight[ed] that our denial of the petition for review does not necessarily preclude defendant from obtaining relief at some point in the future,” and he spelled out three relief possibilities.

In 2015, Justice Liu revived a long-dormant practice of issuing separate statements when the court denies review, and he and other justices — including Justices Groban and Evans — have done so on numerous occasions since then.

Because it comes in a case with a Court of Appeal opinion, the Mota separate statement will be somewhat available. (Related: It should be easier to find Justice Groban’s recent separate statement, Highlighting separate statements, The case for publishing Justice Liu’s dissent.)