In 2008, Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief in a California appeals court seeking the reversal of a 75-year sentence (without the possibility of parole) for a seventeen-year-old convicted of a non-homicide offense. Juvenile Law Center argued that this seventy-five year sentence was the functional equivalent of life without parole (LWOP) and imposing LWOP on juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment as well as analogous provisions in the California Constitution and international law.
The facts of Mr. Diaz’s case were particularly notable—and the severe sentence particularly harsh—because the victims suffered no serious injury. Moreover, Diaz was a juvenile with no criminal record and was described as being “scared” and a “young kid” in a confrontation with two much larger men. In light of these facts, Juvenile Law Center argued that Diaz’s sentence was disproportionate to the offense and the state, federal, and international law provisions noted above.
The California Court of Appeal, Fifth District, affirmed the sentence. Diaz’s petition for review in the California Supreme Court was denied. Diaz then filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. While the petition was pending, in May 2010, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Graham v. Florida, declaring juvenile life without parole sentences unconstitutional in non-homicide cases. Diaz filed an application to expand appointment to recall the remittitur and to petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Fifth District Court of Appeal, which denied the application. Diaz subsequently filed for a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the California Superior Court, asking the Court to set aside Diaz’s 75-year sentence and impose punishment consistent with Graham and the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The case is pending outcome of the California Supreme Court’s decision in People v. Caballero, in which a juvenile was sentenced to 110 years to life for a non-homicide offense.