U.S. Court of Appeals Denies Appeal Asserting that Juvenile Protections Should Be Extended to Those Under Age 25

Above: Defendant Erold Panopio Image Source — Jacksonville.com

On December 15, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the 19-year sentence of Erold Martin Panopio, who was 24 years old at the time of his offense.

In 2019, Panopio pleaded guilty to and was convicted of attempted online enticement of a minor for illegal sexual activity. He was sentenced to 235 months imprisonment and 15 years of supervised release. He appealed, arguing that his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment because “Eighth Amendment jurisprudence mitigating criminal penalties for juveniles should be extended to young adults.”

Panopio cited “scientific research on neurological development and maturation, as well as recent legislative reforms and model legislation that extend juvenile protections to adults under the age of 25.” He also cited cases where juvenile life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) sentences were vacated and remanded in accordance with Miller v. Alabama. The government responded that the cases Panopio cited were irrelevant, because Panopio was neither a juvenile nor sentenced to LWOP.

The court found that Panopio’s sentence “is not grossly disproportionate to his crime” given his conduct and that he “has not cited to any binding precedent that demonstrates plain error” because his “argument that these cases should be extended to young adults, without citation to any binding precedent, is insufficient to show that the district court committed plain error.” The court also noted that the sentencing court explicitly considered Panopio’s youth during sentencing. Accordingly, the Eleventh Circuit denied Panopio’s appeal and affirmed his sentence.

Key words: Miller v. Alabama, young adult, sex offender, adolescent brain, Florida

Citation: United States v. Panopio, 836 Fed.Appx. 839 (2020)

This post is the 54th 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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