People v. Caballero

Juvenile Law Center, along with several other advocacy organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of Rodrigo Caballero, who appealed his sentence of 110 years to life (three consecutive life terms) for his conviction on three counts of attempted murder when he was a juvenile.

The brief argued that because California law requires Caballero to serve a minimum of 110 years before becoming parole-eligible, his sentence is the functional equivalent of life without parole for a non-homicide offense. This sentence violates the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Graham v. Florida, which held that juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life for non-homicide offenses without a meaningful and realistic opportunity for re-entry into society prior to the expiration of their sentence.

The brief thus argued Caballero’s sentence is unconstitutional because it serves no legitimate penological purpose and is disproportionate with respect to his age. The brief argued in addition that the court’s failure to consider Caballero’s significant mental illness at sentencing impacted the constitutionality of the sentence imposed. Finally, the brief argued that Caballero’s 110 year sentence violates United States treaty obligations as well as international practice and opinion.

The California Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal's opinion, ruling that a 110-year-to-life sentence imposed on a juvenile convicted of nonhomicide offenses violates Graham's mandate against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.