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Supreme Court of New Jersey
October 27, 2016, Argued; January 11, 2017, Decided
A-54 September Term 2015, A-63 September Term 2015, 076806 and 077318
[**201] [*428] CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The defendants in these appeals committed very serious, violent crimes when they were juveniles. One is serving a sentence of 110 years' imprisonment and will not be eligible for parole until he spends 55 years in jail. At that time, he would be about 72 years old. The second is serving a 75-year term and is ineligible for parole until he serves 68 years and 3 months in jail. He would be 85 years old then. Because of their young age at the time of their [*429] crimes, both defendants can expect to spend more than a half century in jail before they may be released—longer than the time served by some adults convicted of first-degree murder.
When the sentences were originally imposed in these cases, the trial judges did not consider defendants' age or related circumstances. ] In the past decade, the United States [***10] Supreme Court has sent a clear message in that regard: "children are different" when it comes to sentencing, and "youth and its attendant characteristics" must be considered at the time a juvenile is sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 2460, 2469, 183 L. Ed. 2d 407, 414, 424 (2012).
The Supreme Court recognized "the mitigating qualities of youth" and directed that judges in those cases consider a number of factors at sentencing, including immaturity and "failure to appreciate risks and consequences"; "family and home environment"; family and peer pressures; "an inability to deal with police officers or prosecutors" or the juvenile's own attorney; and "the possibility of rehabilitation." Id. at 478, 132 S. Ct. at 2467-68, 183 L. Ed. 2d at 422-23.
We find that the same concerns apply to sentences that are the practical equivalent of life without parole, like the ones in these appeals. ] The proper focus belongs on the amount of real time a juvenile will spend in jail and not on the formal label attached to his sentence. To satisfy the Eighth Amendment and Article I, Paragraph 12 of the State Constitution, which both prohibit cruel and unusual punishment, we direct that defendants be resentenced and that the Miller factors be addressed at that time.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
227 N.J. 422 *; 152 A.3d 197 **; 2017 N.J. LEXIS 5 ***
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT, v. RICKY ZUBER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, v. JAMES COMER, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
Subsequent History: US Supreme Court certiorari denied by New Jersey v. Zuber, 138 S. Ct. 152, 199 L. Ed. 2d 38, 2017 U.S. LEXIS 5743 (U.S., Oct. 2, 2017)
On remand at, Decision reached on appeal by, Remanded by, in part State v. Zuber, 2020 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 845 (App.Div., May 6, 2020)
Prior History: State v. Ricky Zuber (A-54-15): On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 442 N.J. Super. 611, 126 A.3d 335 (App. Div. 2015) [***1] .
State v. Zuber, 442 N.J. Super. 611, 126 A.3d 335, 2015 N.J. Super. LEXIS 186 (App.Div., Oct. 30, 2015)State v. Comer, 2015 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 3026 (App.Div., Dec. 30, 2015)
sentence, juvenile, parole, parole ineligibility, imprisonment, adult, factors, juvenile offender, robbery, convicted, prison, first-degree, argues, youth, consecutive sentences, years old, counts, cases, kill, term-of-years, resentencing, offenders, offenses, murder, aggregate sentence, consecutive terms, trial judge, rehabilitation, non-homicide, consecutive
Criminal Law & Procedure, Juvenile Offenders, Sentencing, Capital Punishment, Capital Punishment, General Overview, Age & Term Limits, Consecutive Sentences, Appeals, Appealability, Legality Review, Corrections, Modifications & Reductions, Illegal Sentences, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Cruel & Unusual Punishment, State Application, Imposition of Sentence, Findings, Concurrent Sentences, Postconviction Proceedings, Parole, Sentencing Alternatives, Adjustments & Enhancements, Criminal History, Three Strikes, Resentencing