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State v. White

Supreme Court of Iowa

October 27, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
KHASIF RASHEED WHITE, Appellant.

         On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals. Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeffrey D. Farrell, Judge.

         Appellant challenges imposition of minimum term of incarceration without eligibility for parole following a resentencing hearing. DECISION OF COURT OF APPEALS VACATED; DISTRICT COURT JUDGMENT REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          Jane M. White of Jane White Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, John Sarcone, County Attorney, and James Ward, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

          CADY, Chief Justice.

         In this case, we must decide if the hearing conducted by the district court to determine if a juvenile offender should be sentenced to a minimum term of incarceration without eligibility for parole complied with constitutional safeguards. We conclude it did not. We vacate the decision of the court of appeals, reverse the sentence of the district court, and remand for resentencing.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Khasif White was convicted and sentenced for three separate crimes of robbery in the second degree. The crimes were committed over a period of seven months, while White was seventeen years old. The first crime occurred on August 1, 2009. White shoplifted a bottle of liquor from a grocery store and assaulted a store employee who attempted to detain him. The second crime occurred on September 12, 2009. White shoplifted merchandise from a clothing store and assaulted a store employee who attempted to detain him. The third crime occurred five months later on February 20, 2010. White assaulted another person and attempted to take money from him. On each occasion, White was aided in his crimes by other individuals.

         White was sentenced for his crimes on July 27, 2010. The court imposed a ten-year term of incarceration for each offense and imposed a statutory seven-year mandatory minimum period of incarceration without parole pursuant to Iowa Code section 902.12(5) (2009). The court ordered the three sentences to be served concurrently.

         Four years later, the statutory period of incarceration before eligibility for parole for juveniles was found to be unconstitutional without an individualized assessment by the district court. See State v. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d 378, 400-04 (Iowa 2014). On April 30, 2015, White appeared for resentencing to allow the district court to consider if he should serve the seven-year period of incarceration before becoming eligible for parole. White testified at the hearing, as did his mother. The State introduced a summary of White's record of disciplinary actions while in prison.

         The district court concluded White should serve the seven-year period of incarceration before eligibility for parole. It primarily relied on two factors. First, it found that White's repeated arrests for criminal behavior as a juvenile revealed he had gained an understanding of the risks and consequences of his actions. It reasoned this greater understanding made him more mature and less impetuous. Second, it found White's prison record showed he had not grown more amenable to rehabilitation while in prison.

         White appealed and raised two claims of error. First, White claimed the district court failed to properly consider all relevant sentencing factors, including his family and home environment. He also claimed the district court improperly considered the circumstances of his three arrests as an aggravating factor, instead of as a mitigating factor. He further argued the district court misused his prison record in considering his capacity for rehabilitation.

         Second, White claimed the district court had no authority to impose a minimum period of incarceration without parole under Iowa Code section 902.12 (2015). He claims the statute is unconstitutional as applied to juveniles.

         We transferred the case to the court of appeals. It rejected both claims of error. It concluded the district court properly considered the relevant sentencing factors. It also concluded the resentencing hearing cured the constitutional infirmity of the mandatory minimum sentencing under section 902.12. White sought, and we granted, further review.

         II. Standard of Review.

         Our standard of review from a decision by the district court to impose a period of incarceration without parole on a juvenile is for an abuse of discretion. State v. Roby, 897 N.W.2d 127, 137-38 (Iowa 2017).

         III. Application of ...


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