Rejection of rehearing on juvenile's sentence draws fire from judges

Feb. 13, 2014 at 11:11 AM
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SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A panel of U.S. appellate judges in California has brushed off a request by fellow judges to reconsider a ruling that overturned a teenager's 254-year sentence.

The request by seven federal judges in the U.S. Ninth Circuit argued the case should be reheard before the entire 11-judge circuit because the decision by the three-judge panel ran counter to federal law and created a circuit split, Courthouse News reported Wednesday.

The three-judge panel rejected the request in a brief order Wednesday.

In an August 2013 ruling, the judges reversed Roosevelt Brian Moore's 254-year sentence for a series of rapes committed in 1991 when he was 16. Citing a 2010 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham vs. Florida, the panel said the sentence amounted to life without parole and was therefore unconstitutional.

Moore's appeal had been previously refused by two California state courts and a federal judge.

In requesting the rehearing, Ninth Circuit, U.S. appellate Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain said the panel's ruling was contrary to the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which limits the ability of federal courts to overturn a state court's finding except in certain instances.

O'Scannlain, who was joined in his complaint by six other judges in the circuit, said other courts have ruled the decision in Graham did not apply to Moore because his sentence was actually more than two dozen sentences no longer than eight years each.

He said the panel should have explained why it ignored those decisions and charged its refusal to allow the case to be considered en banc was a "regrettable failure."

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