California v. Delgado Docket: G059650 (Fourth Appellate District), Opinion Date: April 29, 2022.
The Fourth Appellate District reversed a trial court order and remanded. The court held that youth offenders who are not eligible for early parole consideration under Penal Code §3051 are nonetheless entitled to Franklin hearings to preserve evidence for their eventual, non-§3051 parole hearings. Although Delgado's Three Strikes (3X) sentence rendered him ineligible for a youth offender parole hearing (YOPH), he was nonetheless entitled to an opportunity to preserve evidence of mitigating.
The issue presented by this appeal was whether youthful offenders who are statutorily ineligible for early parole consideration were nevertheless entitled to a "Franklin" proceeding to preserve evidence for their eventual parole hearing.
During his early 20’s, appellant was involved in three separate criminal incidents. s a result of those incidents, appellant was convicted of kidnapping for robbery and multiple counts of robbery, burglary, false imprisonment and illegal gun possession. He was also found to have personally used a firearm during the offenses and suffered a prior strike conviction. The trial court sentenced him to 59 years to life in prison under the “Three Strikes” law.
In 2020, appellant requested a Franklin proceeding to present mitigation evidence in anticipation of his youth offender parole hearing (YOPH). However, the trial court correctly determined appellant was not eligible for a YOPH because he was sentenced under the Three Strikes law. Therefore, it denied his request for a Franklin proceeding. Appellant admitted he was statutorily ineligible for a YOPH because he was sentenced under the Three Strikes law. However, he contended he is entitled to a YOPH – and a concomitant Franklin proceeding – as a matter of equal protection. Although the Court of Appeal rejected appellant’s equal protection argument, both parties concluded he was entitled to a Franklin proceeding under the standard rules applicable to all parole hearings. The trial court's judgment was reversed and the case remanded for such a proceeding.
BOTTOM LINE: The Legislature's reference to the above statute made clear that it intended the criteria set forth in §4801(c) to apply broadly to all parole hearings, not just youth offender parole hearings under §3051. Consequently, even though Delgado is not entitled to a youth offender parole hearings, the parole board will still---someday---have to consider his diminished capacity and subsequent maturation in assessing his suitability for parole.