In re Williams
Washington’s Persistent Offender ("three strikes") statute imposes mandatory life without parole on any person convicted of 3 "most serious" offenses, even if some of those offenses occurred when the person was a child. Raymond Williams received his first qualifying strike—a robbery of an unoccupied house—when he was just 16 years old and struggling with homelessness and depression after running away from an abusive home. Because of that offense, he is now serving life without parole, even though no judge had the opportunity to consider the impact of his age or other mitigating characteristics before imposing that harshest of available sanctions.
Juvenile Law Center and TeamChild filed an amicus brief in the Washington Court of Appeals in support of Mr. Williams. We argued that Washington’s Persistent Offender statute violates both the Federal and Washington Constitutions by using a juvenile offense as the basis for imposing mandatory life without parole.
Juvenile Law Center joined American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, the Washington Defender Association, and the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in the filing of a joinder in support of petitioner's motion to transfer the appeal to the Washington Supreme Court.
The Washington Court of Appeals denied Mr. William’s Personal Restraint Petition, finding that his claim was untimely and did not meet any exceptions to the time bar. The Court further concluded that, for the purposes of a constitutional analysis, the Persistent Offender statute punishes only the third offense.
Mr. Williams filed a Motion for Discretionary Review in the Washington Supreme Court.
Juvenile Law Center, King County Department of Public Defense, Center for Civil and Human Rights at Gonzaga Law, and nine other advocacy organizations filed an amicus memorandum in the Washington Supreme Court in support of Mr. Williams, arguing that predicating mandatory life without parole sentences on youthful offenses runs afoul of constitutional protections for youth. We further argued that youth of color are disproportionately subject to Persistent Offender prosecution based on youthful offenses, as they are disproportionately declined into the adult criminal legal system.