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Articles Posted in 8th Amendment Cases

The writ of habeas corpus, or the “Great Writ” as it is also known, is a powerful tool. The writ of habeas corpus calls for the review of an individual’s incarceration, requiring the government to justify why it is holding someone in custody. When properly used, a writ of habeas corpus can compel the release of an inmate. However, as powerful as the Great Writ is, it is also commonly misunderstood. These misunderstandings can often result in inmates improperly filing for habeas relief, possibly risking proper review in the future. In the post, leading California criminal appeals lawyer explains: (1) what a Writ of Habeas Corpus is; (2) the differences between state and federal writs of Habeas Corpus, and (3) the requirements of Exhausting your state legal remedies.

What Is a Writ of Habeas Corpus?

Simply put, a writ of habeas corpus calls into question the continued incarceration of an individual. Thus, aside from direct appeal relief, a petition for writ of habeas corpus is another important way for inmates to challenge their conviction or sentence. However, unlike an appeal, a writ of habeas corpus does not give a petitioner the chance to relitigate their case. Writs of habeas corpus are limited to situations in which someone is incarcerated due to an incorrect application of law or newly present circumstances justifying their release.

The concept that children behave differently than adults is nothing new. Children lack the impulse control and foresight that adults do, resulting in them having less appreciation for their actions. However, until relatively recently, the criminal law did not consider a person’s age or its effect on their actions and ability to be rehabilitated. A Franklin hearing is a procedural mechanism that allows a person convicted of a serious crime to present evidence of their youthfulness, not to excuse their actions but to put them into context.

Franklin hearings arose out of a 2016 case involving a 16-year-old boy who shot and killed another teenager. At trial, Tyris Lamar Franklin was sentenced to a total term of 50 years to life. On appeal, Franklin argued that his sentence was the functional equivalent of life without the possibility of parole. Previously, the California Supreme Court determined that juveniles found guilty of non-homicide offenses could not be sentenced to the functional equivalent of life without the possibility of parole. Franklin argued that his 50-plus year sentence qualified as such, and sought relief.

The court denied Franklin the relief he was seeking, noting that subsequent changes to California law allowed Franklin a parole hearing after 25 years. However, under existing state law, at Franklin’s eventual parole hearing, the parole board must “give great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles as compared to adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity.” Because Franklin was sentenced before these changes went into effect, he did not have an opportunity to put this evidence on the record.

Last month, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in an inmate’s claim that the conditions in which he was housed violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. While the case arose out of a federal prison in Texas, it illustrates the prison conditions throughout state and federal prisons in California. The opinion was a welcome step towards the High Court recognizing the inhumane conditions many men and women face after being convicted of a serious crime.

The Facts of the Case

In the case, the petitioner, Trent Taylor, was convicted of armed robbery and given a sentence of 11 years’ incarceration. While he was serving his sentence at a federal prison, Taylor alleged that prison staff kept him in unsanitary conditions that violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

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