Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

People v. Brooks

Supreme Court of Colorado

September 17, 2018

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff
v.
Curtis A. Brooks. Defendant

          Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R.21 Arapahoe County District Court Case No. 95CR675 Honorable Carlos A. Samour, Jr., Judge.

          Attorneys for Plaintiff: George H. Brauchler, District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District Susan J. Trout, Senior Deputy District Attorney Centennial, Colorado

          Attorneys for Defendant: Connelly Law, LLC Sean Connelly Denver, Colorado

          Eytan Nielsen LLC Dru Nielsen Denver, Colorado

          Ratliff Law Firm LLC Ashley Ratliff Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Amici Curiae Colorado Constitutional, Criminal, and Juvenile Law Scholars: Christopher N. Lasch Ian Farrell Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Denver District Attorney: Beth McCann, Denver District Attorney, Second Judicial District Robert M. Russel, Senior Chief Deputy District Attorney Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Amici Curiae District Attorneys for the First, Fourth, and Nineteenth Judicial Districts: Peter Weir, District Attorney, First Judicial District Donna Skinner Reed, Chief Appellate Deputy District Attorney Golden, Colorado

          Daniel H. May, District Attorney, Fourth Judicial District Doyle Baker, Senior Deputy District Attorney Colorado Springs, Colorado

          Michael J. Rourke, District Attorney, Nineteenth Judicial District Greeley, Colorado

          GABRIEL JUSTICE.

         ¶1 This case presents the question of whether Colorado's recently enacted sentencing scheme for juvenile offenders who received unconstitutional mandatory sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole ("LWOP") violates the Special Legislation Clause of the Colorado Constitution. We conclude that it does not.

         ¶2 Based on acts that Brooks committed when he was fifteen years old, prosecutors charged Brooks as an adult with felony murder and other crimes. After a jury convicted Brooks on multiple counts, including the felony murder charge, the trial court imposed a mandatory LWOP sentence in accordance with Colorado's then-applicable sentencing statutes.

         ¶3 Over fifteen years later, the United States Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016), which, respectively, deemed mandatory LWOP sentences for those who were under eighteen at the time of their crimes unconstitutional and concluded that Miller announced a new substantive constitutional rule that was to be applied retroactively on state collateral review. In response to these rulings, the General Assembly amended the pertinent sentencing statutes to provide for resentencing of people, like Brooks, who were then serving unconstitutional mandatory LWOP sentences.

         ¶4 Under the General Assembly's revised sentencing scheme, most persons serving unconstitutional sentences for class 1 felonies would be resentenced to a term of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after forty years. See § 18-1.3-401(4)(c)(I), C.R.S. (2018). A juvenile who had received a mandatory LWOP sentence after conviction for felony murder, however, could request a resentencing hearing before the district court. If, based on the evidence presented at this hearing, the district court found extraordinary mitigating circumstances, then the court could resentence the defendant to a determinate sentence of thirty to fifty years in prison. See § 18-1.3-401(4)(c)(I)(A).

         ¶5 In accordance with these procedures, Brooks petitioned the district court to resentence him to a determinate term of thirty years in prison, over twenty of which he had already served, with ten years of mandatory parole. The People opposed this motion, arguing that the General Assembly's revisions to the sentencing scheme violated the Colorado Constitution's Special Legislation Clause by granting to the small group of people serving unconstitutional sentences for felony murder special privileges (namely, the resentencing hearing and the potential for a thirty- to fifty-year determinate sentence) that were unavailable to the larger class of people serving unconstitutional sentences.

         ¶6 The district court ultimately concluded that the People had not carried their burden of demonstrating that the revised sentencing scheme violated the Special Legislation Clause. The People then petitioned this court for a rule to show cause why the district court's order should not be vacated, and we granted that petition.

         ¶7 We now discharge the rule. Assuming without deciding that the revised sentencing scheme is subject to the Special Legislation Clause and implicates one of the provisions enumerated therein, we conclude that the sentencing scheme does not run afoul of the constitution's prohibition of special legislation because the statute creates a genuine class and its legislative classifications are reasonable. In so concluding, we reject the People's contentions that the class must be deemed illusory because it is "closed" and that the class is, in fact, closed to future members.

         ¶8 Accordingly, we agree with the district court's conclusion that the Special Legislation Clause does not invalidate the revised sentencing legislation, although our reasoning differs from that court's analysis in several respects. We therefore discharge the rule to show cause.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶9 In 1997, a jury convicted Brooks for, among other things, a felony murder committed in 1995 when he was fifteen years old. Brooks had been tried as an adult, and pursuant to the sentencing laws in effect at the time, the court sentenced him to a mandatory LWOP term. Brooks began serving this sentence in 1997, and he remains in prison today.

         ¶10 In 2012, the United States Supreme Court decided Miller, 567 U.S. at 465, in which it held that "mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishments.'" Montgomery, 136 S.Ct. at 732, decided four years later, clarified that Miller had announced a substantive rule that should be applied retroactively in cases on collateral review.

          ¶11 Taken together, these two cases effectively invalidated the sentence that Brooks had received, along with the sentences of approximately fifty other persons in Colorado who had been convicted of class 1 felonies committed on or after July 1, 1990 and before July 1, 2006 when they were juveniles. Colorado statutory law, however, did not provide any alternative constitutional sentences for these offenders.

         ¶12 The gap that Miller and Montgomery left in Colorado's sentencing scheme thus cried out for a legislative solution. See People v. Tate, 2015 CO 42, ¶ 47, 352 P.3d 959, 969-70 (attempting, in the absence of an applicable constitutional sentence adopted by the legislature, to deduce the sentence that the legislature would have adopted had it anticipated the ruling in Miller). In 2016, the General Assembly responded and amended Colorado's sentencing scheme to provide for the resentencing of those persons whose sentences had been rendered unconstitutional by Miller and Montgomery. The revised legislation (the "2016 sentencing legislation") provides, in pertinent part:

(c)(I) . . . [A]s to a person who is convicted as an adult of a class 1 felony following a direct filing of an information or indictment in the district court pursuant to section 19-2-517, C.R.S., or transfer of proceedings to the district court pursuant to section 19-2-518, C.R.S., or pursuant to either of these sections as they existed prior to their repeal and reenactment, with amendments, by House Bill 96-1005, which felony was committed on or after July 1, 1990, and before July 1, 2006, and who received a sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole:
(A) If the felony for which the person was convicted is murder in the first degree, as described in section 18-3-102(1)(b) [i.e., felony murder], then the district court, after holding a hearing, may sentence the person to a determinate sentence within the range of thirty to fifty years in prison, less any earned time granted pursuant to section 17-22.5-405, C.R.S., if, after considering the factors described in subparagraph (II) of this paragraph (c), the district court finds extraordinary mitigating circumstances. Alternatively, the court may sentence the person to a term of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after serving forty years, less any earned time granted pursuant to section 17-22.5-405, C.R.S.
(B) If the felony for which the person was convicted is not murder in the first degree, as described in section 18-3-102(1)(b) [i.e., if it is a form of first degree murder other than felony murder], then the district court shall sentence the person to a term of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after serving ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.