California appeals court orders new hearing on juvenile’s 90-year sentence
© WikiMedia (Michael Coghlan)
California appeals court orders new hearing on juvenile’s 90-year sentence

The California Court of Appeal held Monday that a juvenile offender who was sentenced to a term of 90 years to life in prison is entitled to a hearing to determine if it was proper to try him as an adult.

Harquan Johnson, who was just 17 years old when he was convicted of murder, received an indeterminate life sentence of 90 years to life in state prison. In November 2016 California voters passed Proposition 57, which requires juvenile court judges to decide whether a minor should be prosecuted as an adult. Prior to the enactment of Proposition 57, prosecutors had the ultimate discretion to file a case in juvenile or adult court.

Since Proposition 57 was passed, California courts have concluded that the law can also be applied retroactively. Accordingly, courts can conduct hearings to determine whether past transfers of juveniles to adult court were proper.

The California Court of Appeal concluded Monday that, on remand, the juvenile court should determine if Johnson’s transfer to adult court was proper. If it concludes that it was, the conviction should be upheld. However, if the transfer is deemed improper, the court wrote that “it shall treat his convictions as juvenile adjudications and impose an appropriate ‘disposition’ within its discretion.”

The court also concluded that although Johnson is not entitled to a re-sentencing hearing, he is entitled to an early parole youth hearing well before his sentence is complete, where he can attempt to secure an early release.