The Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to answer whether the state law authorizing indefinite, potentially lifetime sentences for sex offenses makes room for the special considerations that must be given to juveniles who are tried as adults.
In a rare move, the court accepted the question not through the usual appeals process, but following a request from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, based in Denver. Colorado’s justices only agree once or twice per year to decide an issue referred to them by the federal court system.
Currently, the 10th Circuit is weighing whether the sentence of Omar Ricardo Godinez violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. A jury convicted Godinez in 2013 for his role in a pair of brutal rapes in Arapahoe County and he is serving 32 years to life in prison.
Although Godinez was 15 at the time he committed the offenses, prosecutors charged him as an adult. That meant Godinez fell under the Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act (SOLSA), a 1998 law generally requiring sentences up to life in prison for felony sex offenses. Defendants have the opportunity for parole at the low end of their sentencing range if they complete treatment.
Godinez has repeatedly argued such a system for adults does not comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s specific instruction that juvenile defendants must have a “meaningful opportunity to obtain release” after the government considers their maturity and rehabilitation. Those factors do not appear in the text of SOLSA.