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People v. Rainer

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

May 22, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner
v.
Atorrus Leon Rainer. Respondent

         Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No. 10CA2414

          Attorneys for Petitioner: Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General Rebecca A. Adams, Senior Assistant Attorney General Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Respondent: Lord Law Firm, LLC Kathleen A. Lord Denver, Colorado Ashley Ratliff Attorney at Law LLC Ashley Ratliff Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth: Colorado Juvenile Defender Center Hannah Seigel Proff Denver, Colorado

          Attorney for Amicus Curiae Colorado Criminal Defense Bar: Philip A. Cherner Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Colorado Public Defender: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender Ryann S. Hardman, Senior Deputy Public Defender Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Amici Curiae Juvenile Law Center, Colorado Juvenile Defender Center, Center for Children's Law and Policy, Coalition for Juvenile Justice, National Center for Youth Law, and Youth Law Center: Juvenile Law Center Marsha Levick Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Colorado Juvenile Defender Center Hannah Seigel Proff Denver, Colorado

          OPINION

          EID JUSTICE

         ¶1 In 2000, a jury convicted Atorrus Rainer of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, one count of first-degree burglary, one count of aggravated robbery, and crime of violence. Rainer was seventeen at the time of the charged offenses, and he was charged and tried as an adult. Upon the jury's verdict, the trial court sentenced Rainer to forty-eight years for each attempted murder charge, thirty-two years for each assault charge, and thirty-two years each for the charges of burglary and aggravated robbery. The sentences for the two counts of attempted murder were subsequently ordered to run concurrently, as were the sentences for the two counts of assault, resulting in an aggregate sentence of 112 years in the custody of the Department of Corrections.

         ¶2 Following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), which categorically banned sentences of life without parole for juveniles who were not convicted of homicide, Rainer filed a motion with the district court arguing that his aggregate term-of-years sentence is the functional equivalent of life without parole and is therefore unconstitutional under Graham. The district court denied Rainer's motion. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed the district court, holding that, because Rainer will be eligible for parole at age seventy-five, and thus not eligible for parole within his expected natural lifetime, his sentence denies him a "meaningful opportunity to obtain release, " and is unconstitutional under Graham and the subsequent case of Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012). People v. Rainer (Rainer II), 2013 COA 51, ¶ 38, ___ P.3d ___. The court concluded that Rainer must be resentenced in a manner consistent with the principles announced in Graham and Miller. Id. at ¶¶ 81-82.

         ¶3 We granted certiorari and now reverse. For reasons discussed at length in our lead companion case, Lucero v. People, 2017 CO 49, P.3d, also announced today, [1]we hold that Graham and Miller do not apply to, and therefore do not invalidate, Rainer's aggregate term-of-years sentence.

         I.

         ¶4 In 2000, when he was seventeen, Rainer and a companion burglarized an apartment and stole a stereo. During the burglary, Rainer shot one of the home's inhabitants four times and another inhabitant three times, leaving both in critical condition. Rainer was charged and tried as an adult, and a jury convicted him of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, one count of first-degree burglary, one count of aggravated robbery, and sentence-enhancement counts for crimes of violence. Rainer was initially sentenced to a total of 224 years in the custody of the Department of Corrections. On direct appeal, the court of appeals affirmed his convictions, but ordered that the two sentences for attempted murder and the two sentences for assault run concurrently rather than consecutively. See People v. Rainer, No. 01CA1401, slip op. at 30-31 (Colo.App. Feb. 5, 2004). On remand, Rainer's aggregate sentence was reduced to 112 years.

         ¶5 In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), holding that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide. Rainer subsequently filed a motion for post-conviction relief in district court pursuant to Rule 35(c)[2] of the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure, arguing, in pertinent part, that his aggregate sentence is unconstitutional under Graham because it is the ...


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