Ira v. Janecka

Three federal Supreme Court cases created a special category under the Eighth Amendment for juvenile offenders whose culpability was mitigated by adolescence and immaturity. "The cases recognize that a juvenile is more likely to be rehabilitated than an adult and therefore should receive a meaningful opportunity to obtain release by demonstrating maturity and rehabilitation." Petitioner Joel Ira, was sentenced as a juvenile to 91.5 years after he pled no contest to several counts of criminal sexual penetration and intimidation of a witness - crimes which he committed when he was fourteen and fifteen years old. Under the relevant New Mexico Earned Meritorious Deduction Act (EMDA), petitioner would be eligible for parole when he has served one-half of his sentence (approximately 46 years) if he maintained good behavior while incarcerated. He would be approximately 62 years old when he could first be eligible for parole. Petitioner sought habeas relief, arguing that his sentence would be cruel and unusual punishment because it amounted to a life sentence. He relied on both New Mexico and federal Supreme Court jurisprudence as grounds for relief. The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded that Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010) applied when a multiple term-of-years sentence would in all likelihood keep a juvenile in prison for the rest of his or her life because the juvenile would be deprived of a meaningful opportunity to obtain release by demonstrating his or her maturity and rehabilitation. In this case, petitioner could be eligible for a parole hearing when he reached 62 years old if he demonstrated good behavior under the EMDA. Therefore, the New Mexico Court concluded petitioner had a meaningful opportunity to obtain release by demonstrating his maturity and rehabilitation before the Parole Board. View "Ira v. Janecka" on Justia Law