In People v. Caballero, the California Supreme Court will soon be determining whether a 16-year-old boy with schizophrenia may be sentenced to 110-years-to life for three counts of attempted murder. Rodrigo Caballero would not be eligible for parole until 2212, when he would be 122 years old. Advocates from around the country joined in an amicus brief filed on October 28, 2011, urging the Court to find that this "functional equivalent" of life without parole is precisely the sentence prohibited by Graham v. Florida (2010) 130 S. Ct. 2011. In Graham, the United States Supreme Court ruled that juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life without a meaningful and realistic opportunity for re-entry into society prior to the expiration of their sentence for non-homicide offenses. As Justice Kennedy wrote so eloquently,
The juvenile should not be deprived of the opportunity to achieve maturity of judgment and self-recognition of human worth and potential. . . . Life in prison without the possibility of parole gives no chance for fulfillment outside prison walls, no chance for reconciliation with society, no hope.The brief argues that the 110-year-to-life sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, that the evidence of schizophrenia is a mitigating factor further diminishing the youth's culpability, and that this type of sentence is prohibited and condemned by international law and treaties.
The amicus brief was authored by Juvenile Law Center, Human Rights Advocate and
Loyola Law School's Center for Juvenile Law and Policy. Michelle Marquis, a third-year Loyola student in the Juvenile Justice Clinic, assisted me in researching and drafting the Center's portion of the brief. Also joining in as amicus curiae were the Disability Rights Law Center, Human Rights Watch and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.