People v. Hardin , District: 2 DCA , Division: 7 , Case #: B315434 Opinion Date: 10/18/2022
Denying a youth offender parole hearing to individuals sentenced to LWOP for offenses committed when they were between the ages of 18 and 25 violates equal protection.
In 1990, Hardin, then 25 years of age, was convicted of special-circumstance felony murder and sentenced to LWOP. In 2021, Hardin filed a motion seeking to develop a record for an eventual youth offender parole hearing (a.k.a Franklin Hearing). The trial court denied the request, finding Hardin was statutorily ineligible for a youth offender parole hearing under Penal Code section 3051, subdivision (h). Hardin appealed, arguing that section 3051 violated his right to equal protection.
Held: Reversed and remanded.
An individual convicted of an offense committed when he was a young adult (25 years old or younger) and for which the sentence is LWOP, is not eligible for a youth offender parole hearing (Pen. Code, § 3051, subd. (h)) or otherwise entitled to parole consideration. In contrast, an individual convicted of an offense committed when he was a young adult, and for which the sentence is an indeterminate term of 25 years to life, is eligible for release on parole at a youth offender parole hearing at the beginning of his 25th year of incarceration. (Pen. Code, § 3051, subd. (b)(3).)
After analyzing section 3051 and relevant case law, the Court of Appeal concluded that young adult offenders sentenced to LWOP are similarly situated to all other young adult offenders for purposes of section 3051. The purpose of current section 3051 is that the distinctive attributes of youth, which mitigate culpability and offer the possibility of growth and change, apply equally to young adults up to age 25. Accordingly, there is no rational basis for the Legislature to exclude otherwise similarly situated offenders from a youth offender parole hearing based solely on the crime committed or the sentence imposed.
Hardin is entitled to a youth offender parole hearing based on his right to equal protection and, as such, is also entitled to a hearing to assemble[Fn.1] information concerning his youth-related mitigating factors.
The order denying Hardin’s motion for a Franklin hearing is reversed. The cause is remanded with directions to schedule the hearing and to conduct all appropriate further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
Recognizing that gathering information on youth-related mitigating factors for a youth offender parole hearing is a task more easily accomplished at the time of sentencing rather than decades later at a parole hearing, the Supreme Court in People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261, 283-284 held a defendant eligible for such a hearing must be permitted at the time of sentencing to make a record of those factors, a proceeding that has since become known as a Franklin proceeding. The Court in In re Cook (2019) 7 Cal.5th 439, 458 held a juvenile offender with a final judgment could move in a postjudgment proceeding under section 1203.01 (rather than through a petition for a writ of habeas corpus) to present evidence of youth-related factors.
NOTE: The Court of Appeal concluded that distinguishing between juvenile and young adult offenders
sentenced to LWOP does not violate equal protection. (2) The
court noted that the Legislature may decide the youth parole eligibility date
for a young adult sentenced to LWOP should be different from the 25th year of
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B315434.PDF
- Thank you for CCAP's summary of the HARDIN case.