Sen v. State, 301 P.3d 106 (Wyo. 2013) – (Direct Appeal) – (State and Federal Constitutional Decision) – Juvenile defendant (age 15 at time of crimes) was convicted of first-degree felony murder, aggravated burglary, and conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary for his participation in a killing during a home invasion with his two co-felons. The court sentenced the defendant to mandatory LWOP (felony murder), 20 to 25 years (aggravated burglary), and 20 to 25 years (conspiracy), to be served consecutively. On direct appeal, the court held that the sentencing scheme under which the defendant was sentenced was unconstitutional under both the Wyoming and federal constitutions.
To fulfill the requirements of Miller, a trial court must consider the factors of youth and the nature of the homicide at an individualized sentencing hearing when determining whether to sentence the juvenile offender to LWOP or to life with parole. “If at the individualized sentencing hearing the trial court determines the juvenile offender should not be foreclosed from the potential for parole in the future, the appropriate sentence will be life imprisonment according to law . . . . [and] the trial court must also pronounce a specific period of time which must pass before the juvenile becomes parole eligible. . . . That No time format has been specified should be determined by the sentencing court after consideration of the individual factors discussed above. . . . The trial court should consider the criteria set out above and discussed in Miller when determining how long a juvenile offender must wait before becoming eligible for parole review.” (citations omitted). The defendant “is entitled to a sentencing decision that is informed by the Supreme Court’s holding in Miller and its discussion of the distinctive characteristics of youth. . . . Considering the serious nature of Sen’s crime and the fact that [LWOP] is the most severe punishment available for a juvenile, every effort should be made on remand to ensure that the court receives all information relevant to a determination of Sen’s eligibility for parole. Further, in exercising its discretion with regard to a determination as to parole eligibility, the district court must set forth specific findings supporting the distinction between ‘the juvenile offender whose crime reflects unfortunate yet transient immaturity, and the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption.’”
The court vacated the sentence and remanded for a new sentencing hearing. (The court also noted that because Sen’s sentence of LWOP may have impacted the sentencing decisions for his conspiracy and aggravated burglary convictions—which resulted in an additional 40 to 50 years imprisonment beyond his life term—the court thought it was appropriate to also vacate those sentences and remand for resentencing on all counts in order to give full effect to its decision.).