By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
In reviewing the situation, the justices determined that Stotler's sentence meant the defendant would be 70 years old when he could first ask a prison parole board for release and observed that conclusion meant a de facto life sentence because, statistically, Avina won't survive his 60s. (Prison inmates have a life expectancy far beneath the average citizen.)
"[Stotler's] sentence effectively deprives [Avina] of any meaningful opportunity to obtain release regardless of his rehabilitative efforts while incarcerated," the opinion states. "Should [Avina] spend the next half century attempting to atone for his crimes through education, rehabilitation and introspection into why he committed the offenses knowing there is virtually no chance he will be released? Recognizing [Avina] was not sentenced to [life without parole], his sentence nevertheless effectively means denial of hope; it means that good behavior and character improvement are immaterial; it means that whatever the future might hold in store for the mind and spirit of the convict, he will remain in prison for the rest of his days."
Claiming state law forbids the government from issuing non-homicide juvenile offenders life sentences without the possibility for parole, the justices resentenced Avina by making two of the punishments run concurrently with the other terms. The move gives Avina, who is 23 and a resident of Ironwood State Prison in Blythe, a glimmer of hope. Now, he can ask a future parole board to grant him freedom when he's 56 years old and hope they are impressed with his growth. At that point, he'll have been incarcerated for 42 years and six months.