Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing the state’s challenge to the defendant’s sentence. The state claimed that the trial court failed to follow the law when it sentenced the defendant to “life without possibility of parole for twenty-five years.” However, the court held that because the state failed to raise the issue in a timely manner, it was precluded from raising it after the defendant sought parole after having served 24 years. As a result, although the defendant’s sentence was illegally lenient, he was entitled to parole after serving 25 years in custody.
The defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder for a killing that took place in 1995. At sentencing, the trial court sentenced the defendant to “life without possibility of parole for twenty-five years,” to be followed by a period of “community supervision.” However, at the time, there was a law on the books that prohibited defendants who were convicted of first-degree murder from being eligible for parole. At the time of the defendant’s sentencing, the prosecution did not object, nor did it appeal the sentence.
After the defendant served 24 years in custody, he sought parole. The defendant was told he was not eligible for parole, and the defendant sued the Arizona State Department of Corrections. The state then sought a determination as to whether the defendant was eligible for parole.