The Supreme Court today denied the habeas corpus petition in In re Mendoza, but three justices issued a separate concurring statement expressing discomfort with Nancy Mendoza’s sentence and suggesting other avenues of relief. Mendoza is serving a life without parole sentence for her part in two kidnappings when she was 18 years old.

Justice Joshua Groban, writing for himself and Justices Goodwin Liu and Kelli Evans, said Mendoza “simply has not shown that counsel rendered prejudicial ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing.” “However,” the statement continued, “there are several facts that raise significant questions as to whether Mendoza’s sentence of life without the possibility of parole is a just result,” including that if she “had been a few months younger at the time of her offenses, she would not be eligible for her life without the possibility of parole sentence.”

Also, the statement reported, Mendoza turned down a plea deal for a 15-year sentence in exchange for testimony against her boyfriend. Two other co-defendants took deals, leading the justices to conclude, “Mendoza, in an apparent effort to protect her boyfriend, is currently condemned to life without parole, while two of her accomplices are not.”

Justice Groban then said, “I write separately to highlight that our denial of the petition for writ of habeas corpus here does not necessarily preclude Mendoza from obtaining [resentencing] relief at some point in the future.” And he specified how she might get that relief.

The same three justices filed a similar concurring statement last month when the court denied a petition for review in a case where the justices said the defendant “has spent over 27 years in prison for stealing a pair of jeans.”


It should be easier to find Justice Groban’s recent separate statement