California v. AcostaAnnotate this Case
At 21 years old, appellant Joshua Acosta, who was diagnosed with a form of high-functioning autism spectrum disorder, plotted with his codefendant, to kill their friend Katlynn’s parents, whom Acosta believed was physically and sexually abusing her. Acosta shot and killed Katlynn’s parents and a family friend who was at their house. A jury convicted Acosta of three counts of first degree murder and found true the multiple murder special circumstance and firearm enhancements. The trial court sentenced him to three consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP), plus an additional 75 years to life in prison. On appeal, Acosta claimed his LWOP sentences were unconstitutional and had to be modified to allow for future parole consideration. Much of his challenge related to California Penal Code section 3051, which granted the right to a youth offender parole hearing to juvenile offenders sentenced to LWOP, and to juvenile and young adult offenders sentenced to indeterminate or life terms, no matter how lengthy. According to Acosta, section 3051 violated equal protection because it denied young adult offenders sentenced to LWOP the right to a youth offender parole hearing. Acosta further contended his LWOP sentences violated the Eighth Amendment. The Court of Appeal rejected these contentions and affirmed the judgment.