Gregg appeals the constitutionality of his standard range
sentence. He contends when sentencing a juvenile in adult
court, the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution
and article I, section 14 of the Washington Constitution
require a presumption that a juvenile's youthfulness is a
mitigating factor and the State assumes the burden to
overcome the presumption. Neither the federal nor the
Washington case law cited by Gregg supports his argument or
warrants deviating from the Sentencing Reform Act of 1981
(SRA),  which places the burden of proving
mitigating factors on the defendant.
also challenges the voluntariness of his guilty plea.
Although Gregg was affirmatively misinformed about his duty
to register as a felony firearm offender, Gregg fails to
establish manifest injustice.
facts of the underlying crimes are not at issue or in
State charged Gregg, along with his codefendant, Dylan
Mullins, with first degree murder with a firearm, first
degree burglary with a firearm, and first degree
arson. Although Gregg was 17 years old at the
time of the murder, he was "subject to the exclusive
original jurisdiction of the adult court" because he was
charged with first degree murder.
pleaded guilty as charged. At sentencing, Gregg requested an
exceptional sentence downward based on his youthfulness.
Following a six-day sentencing hearing, the court imposed a
standard range of sentence of 444 months.
Challenge to the Standard Range Sentence
challenges the trial court's imposition of a standard
provides that a standard range sentence "shall not be
appealed." But a party may still '"challenge
the underlying legal conclusions and determinations by which
a court comes to apply a particular sentencing
provision.'" The SRA provides, "The court may
impose a sentence outside the standard range for an offense
if it finds . . . that there are substantial and compelling
reasons justifying an exceptional
sentence." Under the SRA, the defendant has the
burden to prove mitigating circumstances by a preponderance
of the evidence.
contends the Eighth Amendment to the United States
Constitution and article I, section 14 of the Washington
Constitution require a presumption that a juvenile's
youth is a mitigating factor and that the State assume the
burden to prove otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.
Constitutional interpretation is a question of law we review
raises these arguments for the first time on appeal. Although
"[t]he appellate court may refuse to review any claim of
error which was not raised in the trial court," a party
may raise a "manifest error affecting a constitutional
right" for the first time on appeal. Gregg's
claimed error implicates his constitutional rights. And given
the State's lack of briefing on whether the error is
manifest, the State appears to acknowledge this issue is
reviewable for the first time on appeal.
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual
punishment." In the context of this prohibition, the
United States Supreme Court and the Washington Supreme Court
have repeatedly recognized that children are different from
adults and these differences require different sentencing
procedures, including full discretion for the court to
consider youthfulness at sentencing and a categorical bar of
certain levels of punishment for juveniles.
2005, in Roper v. Simmons, the United States Supreme
Court acknowledged "[t]hree general differences between
juveniles under 18 and adults [that] demonstrate that
juvenile offenders cannot with reliability be classified
among the worst offenders."
First, . . . "[a] lack of maturity and an underdeveloped
sense of responsibility are found in youth more often than in
adults and are more understandable among the young. These
qualities often result in impetuous and ill-considered
actions and decisions."....
The second area of difference is that juveniles are more
vulnerable or susceptible to negative influences and outside
pressures, including peer pressure. . . .
The third broad difference is that the character of a
juvenile is not as well formed as that of an adult. . . . The
personality traits of juveniles are more transitory, less
consideration of these differences, the Court determined
"[t]he Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid
imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were under
the age of 18 when their crimes were
committed." In 2010, in Graham v. Florida,
the Court extended the categorical bar from Roper to
life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of
2012, in Miller v. Alabama, the Court barred
"mandatory" life without parole sentences for
juveniles convicted of any offense. The Court did not
completely foreclose a trial court's ability to impose a
life sentence without the possibility of parole for juvenile
offenders convicted of homicide. But it did announce the
Eighth Amendment required courts "to take into account
how children are different, and how those differences counsel
against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in
2017, in State v. Ramos, our Supreme Court addressed
whether the requirements of Miller applied to
literal and de facto life without parole sentences for
juveniles convicted of homicide. To support the
court's determination that a Miller hearing was
required in both circumstances, the court analyzed the
At the Miller hearing, the court must meaningfully
consider how juveniles are different from adults, how those
differences apply to the facts of the case, and whether those
facts present the uncommon situation where a
life-without-parole sentence for a juvenile homicide offender
is constitutionally permissible. If the juvenile proves
by a preponderance of the evidence that his or her
crimes reflect transient immaturity, substantial and
compelling reasons would necessarily justify an exceptional
sentence below the standard range because a standard range
sentence would be unconstitutional.
Supreme Court expressly determined "Miller does
not require that the State assume the burden of proving that
a standard range sentence should be imposed, rather than
placing the burden on the juvenile offender to prove an
exceptional sentence is justified."
although our Supreme Court acknowledged in Ramos,
"most juvenile homicide offenders facing the possibility
of life without parole will be able to meet their burden of
proving an exceptional sentence below the standard range is
justified, " Gregg is not facing either a literal or
a de facto life without parole sentence. The court sentenced
Gregg to 444 months (37 years).
does not endorse the additional procedural protections Gregg
advocates. In Ramos, the defendant argued the State
must assume the burden of proving the court should impose a
standard range sentence. Although the Ramos court
avoided "discounting] the potential benefits of such
procedural requirements," the court determined the
defendant had "not shown that the specific procedures .
. . are required as a matter of federal constitutional
law." The court's comment concerning the
"potential benefits" of additional procedural
protections is dicta, and it cannot be read as endorsing
contends our Supreme Court "moved past
Ramos" in State v.
Houston-Sconiers. In Houston-Sconiers,
our Supreme Court considered whether mandatory firearm
enhancements for juvenile offenders violated Miller
and the Eighth Amendment. The court held,
In accordance with Miller, . . . sentencing courts
must have complete discretion to consider mitigating
circumstances associated with the youth of any juvenile
defendant, even in the adult criminal justice system ....
Trial courts must consider mitigating qualities of youth at
sentencing and must have discretion to impose any sentence
below the otherwise applicable SRA range and/or sentence
addresses the effect of the SRA's firearm enhancement
provision on the court's considerable discretion when
sentencing a juvenile defendant in adult court. RCW
9.94A.533(3)(e) provides, "Notwithstanding any other
provision of law, all firearm enhancements under this section
are mandatory, shall be served in total confinement, and
shall run consecutively to all other sentencing provisions,
including other firearm or deadly weapon enhancements, for
all offenses sentenced under this chapter." Our Supreme
Court determined a sentencing court's discretion to
consider the juvenile's youthfulness is not constrained
by the SRA's requirement that firearm enhancements are
mandatory and run consecutively.
neither mentions nor imposes the additional procedural
protections Gregg requests. Although
Houston-Sconiers does not cite Ramos or
discuss the burden of proof, we reject Gregg's contention
that this omission leaves the issue open. We are bound by our
Supreme Court's holding in Ramos.
2019, in State v. Gilbert, our Supreme Court further
emphasized the discretion provided to the court to consider
youthfulness when sentencing juveniles in adult
court. Gilbert "concem[edj the
scope of discretion a judge has in resentencing pursuant to
RCW 10.95.035," the "Miller-fix"
statute. As to Houston-Sconiers, the
Gilbert court stated,
Our opinion in that case cannot be read as confined to the
firearm enhancement statutes as it went so far as to question
any statute that acts to limit consideration of the
mitigating factors of youth during sentencing. Nor can it be
read as confined to, or excluding, certain types of
sentencing hearings as we held that the courts have
discretion to impose downward sentences "regardless of
how the juvenile got there."
United States and the Washington Supreme Court cases cited by
Gregg do not support his proposition that the court is
required to presume youthfulness and the State assumes the
burden of overcoming this presumption. In fact, with the
exception of Ramos, none of these cases mention the
additional procedural protections requested by Gregg. And in
Ramos, our Supreme Court explicitly determined
Miller and the Eighth Amendment do not require the
additional procedural protections at issue. Neither federal
nor Washington Eighth Amendment case law warrant deviating
from the basic structure of the SRA, which places the burden
of proving the existence of substantial and compelling
reasons to support an exceptional sentence on the defendant.
also cites to several out-of-state cases. Similar to
Ramos and several of the cases discussed above,
these out-of-state cases interpret Miller as
requiring a presumption against life without parole sentences
for juvenile offenders. As mentioned above, Gregg is not
subject to a life without parole sentence. And even if the
out-of-state cases were analogous to these facts, we cannot
ignore the binding precedent from our Supreme Court in
has not shown that the Eighth Amendment requires a
presumption that a juvenile's youth is a mitigating
factor or that the State assumes the burden to prove
otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.
Article I, Section 14 of the ...