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State v. Mulder

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 2, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOHN WALTER MULDER, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Sioux County, Steven J. Andreasen, Judge.

         John Mulder appeals the order resentencing him for a crime he committed as a juvenile. AFFIRMED.

          Jared R. Weber, Orange City, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         John Mulder was fourteen years old when he shot and killed Jean Homan while she was asleep in her bedroom. A jury convicted him of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Three decades later, Governor Brandstad commuted the sentences of juvenile offenders to life in prison with parole eligibility after sixty years. Mulder moved for resentencing, and after holding an individualized sentencing hearing, the district court imposed a sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility in forty-two years.

         On appeal, Mulder contends the requirement that he serve forty-two years of his sentence before parole eligibility violates the Iowa Constitution because it "is the equivalent of a life sentence with no parole [and] no meaningful or realistic opportunity for release." He makes the blanket argument that any minimum period of incarceration violates the Iowa Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Our supreme court recently rejected this claim in State v. Roby, N.W.2d,, 2017 WL 2610616, at *10 (Iowa 2017), holding the Iowa Constitution does not prohibit imposing mandatory minimum terms of incarceration on juveniles. We likewise reject Mulder's claim.

         Mulder also contends the district court's sentence is illegal because the court failed to consider and weigh the mitigating factors set forth in State v. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d 378, 404 n.10 (Iowa 2014).[1] These factors include:

(1) the age of the offender and the features of youthful behavior, such as "immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences"; (2) the particular "family and home environment" that surround the youth; (3) the circumstances of the particular crime and all circumstances relating to youth that may have played a role in the commission of the crime; (4) the challenges for youthful offenders in navigating through the criminal process; and (5) the possibility of rehabilitation and the capacity for change.

Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 404 n.10 (citations omitted).

         In resentencing Mulder, the district court noted it was required to give specific consideration to several factors because of Mulder's status as a juvenile offender:

The first factor is the prior pronouncement that sentencing a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole should be rare and uncommon.
Second, the court must recognize that "children are constitutionally different from adults." This is a consideration of a juvenile's lack of maturity, underdeveloped sense of responsibility, vulnerability to peer pressure, and the less fixed nature of a juvenile's ...

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