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A Better Partnership
February 22, 2013

COA Opinion: Sentence of 100 to 150 years for second-degree murder was not cruel or unusual punishment

The defendant in People v. Bowling pleaded nolo contendere to first-degree home invasion, second-degree murder and resisting and obstructing. Police officers attempted to arrest the defendant and his brother while they were committing a home invasion. The defendant attempted to flee, but he was eventually apprehended. His brother used a gun that he had stolen from the home and shot and killed a police officer. The police officer also shot and killed the defendant's brother. The trial court sentenced the defendant as a fourth habitual offender to concurrent sentences of 50 to 100 years for first-degree home invasion, 100 to 150 years for second-degree murder, and 3 to 15 years for resisting and obstructing. Because the defendant did not preserve the issue of whether his sentences constituted cruel and unusual punishment, the Court of Appeals' review was limited to whether plain error affected the defendant's substantial rights. A sentence of 100 years for second-degree murder was within the sentencing guidelines range, which was 365 to 1200 months or life. The court stated that a 'sentence within the guidelines range is presumptively proportionate, and a proportionate sentence is not cruel or unusual.' Slip op. at 3. And even though the defendant's age of 49 years ensured that he would spend the remainder of his life in prison, the court concluded that fact alone did not render the punishment cruel or unusual, especially considering the defendant's lengthy criminal record. Accordingly, the court affirmed the defendant's sentences, but remanded for the administrative task of correcting an error in the judgment of sentence.

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