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JLWOP Plea Deal Open for Post-Conviction Relief

Freddie Crespin v. Charles Ryan Docket: 18-15073, Opinion Date: August 19, 2022. Petitioner was charged in Arizona with first-degree murder. The crime was committed when Petitioner was sixteen years old, but the Supreme Court had not yet held that the death penalty could not be imposed on defendants younger than eighteen when the crime occurred. To avoid that possibility, he entered into a plea agreement under which he agreed to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (“LWOP”). After the Supreme Court decided in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), that the imposition of LWOP for those convicted of a crime committed while under the age of eighteen violated the Eighth Amendment under some circumstances, Petitioner unsuccessfully sought post-conviction relief (“PCR”) in Arizona state court. He then filed a 28 U.S.C. Section 2254 habeas corpus petition, and the district court granted a conditional writ. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of a conditional writ of habeas corpus. The panel held that the plea agreement did not waive Petitioner’s right to pursue a PCR challenge of his sentence. The panel further explained, that under Miller, a sentencer must have discretion to impose a lesser sentence than LWOP. Here, the trial judge made it clear that he did not have this discretion. Because the judge correctly recognized that his only sentencing option was LWOP, Petitioner’s sentencing violated the Eighth Amendment. The panel concluded that there was at least a reasonable possibility that a sentencing proceeding conducted in accordance with Miller’s requirements would result in a non-LWOP sentence.

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