People v. Rainer

Atorrus Rainer received an aggregate sentence of 112 years for his participation in a robbery and non-fatal shooting at age 17. He will not become eligible for parole until age 75.

Juvenile Law Center along with Colorado Juvenile Defender Center, Center for Children’s Law and Policy, Coalition for Juvenile Justice, National Center for Youth Law, and Youth Law Center filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of Colorado in support of Mr. Rainer. Our brief argued that because Mr. Rainer’s sentence deprives him of a “meaningful opportunity to obtain release” as mandated by Graham and Miller, it is the functional equivalent of life without parole and is unconstitutional despite being labeled as a term-of-years sentence. We further argued that even when juveniles commit multiple nonhomicide offenses they are entitled to a “meaningful opportunity to obtain release” under Graham.

The Supreme Court of Colorado held that Graham and Miller do not apply to aggregate term-of-years sentences, explaining in the opinion published the same day in the lead companion case, Lucero v. People, 2017 CO 49, __ P.3d __, that “[l]ife without parole is a specific sentence, distinct from sentences to terms of years.”

Although the Court has deemed the sentences distinct, for Mr. Rainer and the other youthful offenders affected by this Court’s decision, the results are likely to be the same: a lifetime behind bars for nonhomicide offenses committed as a child.