Colo. Supreme Court upholds re-sentencing law for juveniles over Brauchler challenge
Author: Associated Press - September 18, 2018 - Updated: September 18, 2018
The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld a law that allows judges to reduce the sentences of prisoners serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles.
Monday’s ruling came in the case of Curtis Brooks, convicted of murder in a 1995 slaying, when he was 15.
When Brooks requested a resentencing hearing, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler argued the resentencing law was unconstitutional. He said it gave preferential treatment to Brooks and 16 other prisoners in the same circumstances.
Brauchler is a Republican running for state attorney general.
Brooks’ attorney, Dru Nielsen, said the the resentencing hearing can proceed.
The Legislature passed the resentencing law in 2016, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles were cruel and unusual, violating the U.S. Constitution.
On Monday, Brauchler said he was ready to move on.
“We raised this issue because we had doubts about the validity of the law,” he said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has now spoken, we know what the law is, and we accept that the ruling is now the law of our state. It is important that we now see that Mr. Brooks is back in court as soon as possible for re-sentencing under the 2016 legislation.”
The Colorado Legislature was forced to address the issue of juveniles sentenced to life without parole after the U.S. Supreme Court found such punishments unconstitutional. The new Colorado law revised sentencing so that most people sentenced under the old juvenile guidelines would be eligible for parole after 40 years.
However, the law said a juvenile sentenced to mandatory life without parole for a felony murder conviction could request a re-sentencing hearing before a district court judge, who could decide to impose a new sentence of 30 to 50 years in prison. That clause affected an estimated 16 people, according to the state Supreme Court ruling.
Brooks is appealing for a new sentence in Arapahoe County District Court.
Brooks was sentenced in 1997 for his role in the 1995 robbery and shooting death of Christopher Ramos, 24. Brooks was one of four teenagers who participated in the carjacking, but he did not fire the fatal shot.
Brooks, who has served 23 years in prison, is hoping that a new sentence along with credits earned for good behavior could lead to an immediate release.
He applied for clemency, but Gov. John Hickenlooper held off on a decision because of the state Supreme Court’s pending ruling.