Melton v. ColoradoAnnotate this Case
In this case and two companion cases announced at the same time, Wells-Yates v. Colorado, 2019 CO 90, and Colorado v. McRae, 2019 CO 91, the Colorado Supreme Court considered issues “that lie at the intersection of habitual criminal punishment and proportionality review.” Seeking to execute multiple outstanding arrest warrants for Johnny Melton in October 2009, three deputies responded to his mother’s home and arrested him. In a search of his person, they recovered a metal tin containing methamphetamine mixed with trace amounts of oxycodone, heroin, and cocaine. Melton asked the deputies to retrieve a cigarette from a leather jacket on a bed. In the jacket, deputies found marijuana, methamphetamine mixed with trace amounts of ecstasy and diazepam, and a hypodermic needle containing a suspected narcotic. The State later charged Melton with six substantive drug offenses and three habitual criminal counts. In October 2010, a jury found Melton guilty of possession of 1 gram or less of each of three schedule I or II controlled substance. At a subsequent bench trial in December 2010, the court adjudicated Melton a habitual criminal based on his prior felony convictions for possession of methamphetamine, theft, and second degree assault. The court then imposed a mandatory 24-year prison sentence on each of the three triggering offenses and ordered that the sentences be served concurrently. Melton challenged his sentences on proportionality grounds, but after an abbreviated proportionality review, the trial court found no inference of gross disproportionality. A split division of the court of appeals affirmed Melton’s convictions and sentences. Consistent with Wells-Yates (the lead case), the Supreme Court held that: (1) possession of schedule I and II controlled substances is not per se grave or serious; and (2) in determining the gravity or seriousness of the triggering and predicate offenses during an abbreviated proportionality review, the court should consider any relevant legislative amendments enacted after the dates of those offenses, even if the amendments do not apply retroactively. Because the court of appeals reached different conclusions, its judgment is reversed. And, because additional factual determinations are necessary to properly address the defendant’s proportionality challenge, the case is remanded with instructions to return it to the trial court for a new proportionality review in accordance with Wells-Yates and McRae.