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Juvenile LWOP Case Remanded for Fitness Hearing

California v. Montes Court: California Courts of Appeal, Docket: E075064 (Fourth Appellate District), Opinion Date: October 7, 2021. In 2003, defendant-appellant Louis Montes was convicted of, among other things, the special circumstance murder of April Peake (the victim) which he committed when he was 17 years old. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). After the United States Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 465 (2012), the California Supreme Court decided that juveniles sentenced to LWOP were entitled to a hearing in order to have an opportunity to present information as to juvenile characteristics and circumstances at the time the offense was committed. Defendant petitioned to recall his sentence pursuant to Penal Code section 1170(d)(2). The superior court granted the petition, recalled defendant’s sentence, and resentenced him to LWOP. In this appeal, defendant contended the superior court abused its discretion by applying the wrong legal standard during resentencing. He further contended the court should have sua sponte transferred this matter to the juvenile court for a transfer/fitness hearing pursuant to Proposition 57 (as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 8, 2016)). The Court of Appeal rejected defendant’s first contention but found merit in the second: in supplemental briefing, the parties agreed, and the Court concurred, the minute order of the resentencing hearing had to be corrected, and a new abstract of judgment should issue. Accordingly, the Court conditionally reversed defendant’s sentence and remanded for defendant to receive a transfer/fitness hearing in the juvenile court.

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