California Appellate Court Affirms LWOP Sentence for Defendant Who Committed Offenses at 18 Years and 7 Months Old

Kentaya Blake. (KTLA)

On December 8, 2020, a California Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions and sentence of Kenyata Blake, who was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for crimes he committed at age 18.

In 2019, Blake was convicted of first-degree felony murder and robbery for offenses committed when he was 18 years and 7 months old. He was sentenced to mandatory LWOP for committing a special circumstance first-degree murder.

Blake contended that his sentence was unconstitutional and asserted that the characteristics of juveniles leading to the ruling in Miller v. Alabama (which prohibited mandatory LWOP sentences for those who committed an offense when they were younger than18 years old) should be considered in his case.

The court noted that “the United States Supreme Court has consistently toed the line between the age of minority and the age of majority when determining the constitutionality of capital punishment” and that 18 years old is the line at which much of society draws the line between childhood and adulthood. Because Blake was older than 18 years old at the time of his offenses, the court concluded that it was “bound by Miller, Roper, and Gutierrez, and decline[d] the invitation to conclude that ‘new insights and societal understandings about the juvenile brain require us to conclude the bright line of 18 years old in the criminal sentencing context is unconstitutional.’” The court affirmed Blake’s sentence.

Citation: People v. Blake, 2020 WL 7222023

Key Words: California, LWOP, adolescent brain, young adult, Miller v. Alabama

This post is the 90th post as part of an ongoing Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB) series tracking the latest developments in law and neuroscience cases. To see previous posts about recent cases, see the full case archive on the CLBB website. To see updates on legal scholarship, see the Neurolaw News, hosted by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. This project is made possible through support of the Dana Foundation.

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at Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

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