from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Ian K.
Null appeals the sentences imposed on his convictions for
crimes he committed as a juvenile.
C. Meyer, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
Null appeals following a second resentencing for crimes he
committed as a juvenile. He argues the district court failed
to adequately state its reasons for imposing consecutive
sentences. He also claims Iowa Code section 902.4 (2009) is
unconstitutional as applied to him.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
was sixteen years old when he shot and killed Kevin Bell
during a robbery. After he entered guilty pleas, district
court sentenced Null to a fifty-year term of incarceration
for second-degree murder and a twenty-five-year term for
first-degree robbery. Each sentence carried a seventy-percent
mandatory minimum term. The district court ordered Null to
serve the sentences consecutively.
direct appeal from his convictions and sentences, Null
claimed the mandatory minimum sentence he was required to
serve-in excess of fifty years- amounted to a de facto life
sentence, thereby violating federal and state constitutional
protections against cruel and unusual punishment. See,
e.g., Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 479
(2012) (holding sentencing schemes that mandate life in
prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders
who commit homicide offenses unconstitutional under the
Eighth Amendment). Our supreme court held that juvenile
offenders facing mandatory minimum prison terms of more than
fifty years are entitled to an individualized sentencing
hearing to determine their parole eligibility. State v.
Null (Null I), 836 N.W.2d 41, 70-71 (Iowa 2013). The
court noted specific considerations the district court must
contemplate in sentencing these juvenile offenders, such as
the difference in culpability between children and adults,
their increased ability to change, and that lengthy prison
sentences without the possibility of parole are only
appropriate "in rare or uncommon cases."
Id. at 74-75. The court vacated Null's sentence
and remanded the case to the district court for
individualized resentencing, ordering the court to consider
whether the imposition of consecutive sentences would result
in a prison term so lengthy it violates the Iowa
Constitution's protections against cruel and unusual
punishment. Id. at 76-77.
district court held a resentencing hearing on remand. In its
written order, the court summarized the evidence presented at
the resentencing hearing:
[Null] is currently 23 years old, but was 16 years, 10
months, and 14 days old at the time he shot and killed Kevin
Bell. [Null] had a rough childhood. His parents were never
married and his father left when [Null] was four (4) years
old. [Null] has two younger half-siblings. [Null] was
primarily raised by his mother, who has a history of drug and
alcohol abuse. [Null]'s mother also worked as a stripper
and prostitute. Throughout the course of his childhood,
[Null]'s mother brought several of her
"boyfriends" into [Null]'s life. Many of these
boyfriends were physically abusive to [Null] and [Null]'s
mother. Both grandmothers described [Null]'s childhood as
difficult and characterized him as being torn between his
mother and his father. [Null] did spend periods of time in
his father's care. Several Juvenile Court and DHS
services were provided to [Null] throughout his childhood.
These interventions are thoroughly summarized in the
[presentence investigation report] and [Null]'s Addendum
to Sentencing Memorandum filed under seal. While in
residential treatment from January 2008 to January 2009,
[Null] was sexually abused by a female staff member.
[Null] presented evidence of a history of mental illness in
his family, including his own, mostly untreated, mental
health issues. [Null] did receive some mental health
treatment at age five (5), however, his mother would not
allow him to take medication as prescribed.
While incarcerated, [Null] has taken advantage of the
programs offered to him, including the completion of his GED.
[Null] is also taking college courses and has taken advantage
of job opportunities in prison. He has had some discipline
problems during his incarceration and transition from county
jail to prison, but these ...