New Mexico v. FranklinAnnotate this Case
Defendant Corey Franklin pled guilty to one count of first-degree, willful and deliberate murder, the only offense currently designated as a “capital felony,” in exchange for life in prison with a possibility of parole. Due to his first-degree murder conviction, Defendant was subject to sentencing pursuant to Section 31-18-14. See § 30-2-1(A). Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of a five-year period of parole after serving thirty years in prison. Prior to sentencing, Defendant filed a motion seeking the opportunity to present mitigating evidence which could eventually shorten his sentence. While Defendant acknowledged that Section 31-18-14 did not expressly provide an opportunity to present mitigating evidence at the time of sentencing to those convicted of first-degree murder, he argued that this violated his due process rights under Article II, Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution and his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under Article II, Section 13 of the New Mexico Constitution. In his motion, Defendant noted that persons convicted of a lesser offense are provided with an opportunity to present mitigating circumstances at sentencing, which places them in a stronger position for parole than first-degree murderers. The district court denied Defendant’s motion to declare Section 31-18-14 7 unconstitutional and concluded that it was within the Legislature’s authority to decline to provide the opportunity to present evidence of mitigating circumstances to the most serious offenders. The district court entered final judgment and sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment with the possibility of a five-year 11 period of parole after he served thirty years in prison. On appeal, Defendant abandoned his constitutional arguments, and instead challenged the sentencing distinction on equal protection grounds. The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded that defendants convicted of first-degree murder and those convicted of lesser offenses are not similarly situated, and consequently, Section 31-18-14 did not violated Defendant’s constitutional right to equal protection.