State v. Boston, 363 P. 3d 453 (Nev. 2015)Juvenile defendant (age 16 at time of crimes) was convicted of first-degree kidnapping, six counts of sexual assault, robbery, attempted dissuading a victim/witness from reporting a crime, burglary, lewdness with a minor, assault, and battery (most convictions had the designation of “with use of a deadly weapon”). He received 14 life sentences with the possibility of parole, plus a consecutive 92 years in prison. He would have to serve approximately 100 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. Boston filed a petition for post-conviction habeas review in 2011 arguing that his sentence was unconstitutional under Graham. A district court ruled in Boston’s favor and the State appealed. The Nevada Supreme Court held that Graham prohibits aggregate sentences that constitute life without the possibility of parole for a nonhomicide offense committed by a juvenile.

The court reasoned that: “Nowhere in the Graham decision does the Supreme Court specifically limit its holding to offenders who were convicted for a single nonhomicide offense.” (emphasis in original). The court also noted that “Graham did not receive the specific sentence of life without parole; he received the sentence of life in a jurisdiction that abolished the parole system. Therefore, just like Boston, Graham received the functional equivalent of life without parole.” (internal citation omitted). Viewing the sentences individually, instead of in the aggregate, the court reasoned, “would undermine the Court’s goal of prohibiting States from making the judgment at the outset that those offenders never will be fit to reenter society.” (alteration, internal quotations and citation omitted). Viewing the sentence in the aggregate instead of each sentence individually for the Graham analysis, the court reasoned, “best addresses the concerns enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court and this court regarding the culpability of juvenile offenders and the potential for growth and maturity of these offenders.”

Thus, the court concluded: “We therefore hold that a district court violates the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment when it sentences a nonhomicide juvenile offender to the functional equivalent of life without the possibility of parole. Because the decision in Graham applies to juvenile offenders with aggregate sentences that are the functional equivalent of life without the possibility of parole, we conclude that Boston demonstrates good cause and actual prejudice to overcome the procedural bars, and his ground for relief has merit.” The court held that Boston’s aggregate sentences, which require him to serve 100 years before being eligible for parole, “are without a doubt the functional equivalent of a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.”

The court further held that Nevada’s new juvenile parole provisions (A.B. 267) also apply to juvenile nonhomicide offenders who have been convicted of “an offense or offenses that did not result in the death of a victim.” (emphasis added). The fact that the statute refers to the plural form of “offense” “demonstrates the Legislature’s intent to allow parole eligibility after 15 years when a juvenile defendant is convicted of more than one nonhomicide offense and the sentences therefore aggregate.” Thus, the court concluded that “the legislative changes set forth in A.B. 267 apply to aggregate sentences and a nonhomicide juvenile offender is eligible for parole after serving 15 calendar years of incarceration on his or her aggregate sentences.” Boston has been incarcerated for at least 27 years and is therefore eligible for parole under A.B. 267.