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Shalouei v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

March 7, 2017

MATTHEW PAYAM SHALOUEI, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 263rd District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 1411883

          Panel consists of Justices Boyce, Busby, and Wise.

          OPINION

          William J. Boyce Justice

         Appellant Matthew Payam Shalouei was convicted of capital murder and automatically sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. The issue in this appeal is whether certain Texas statutes that mandate a minimum sentence for juveniles convicted of a capital crime are unconstitutional.

         The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals previously has determined that an automatic life sentence for a juvenile convicted of a capital crime does not violate the juvenile's constitutional rights if there is a possibility of parole. Although the Court of Criminal Appeals did not specifically consider in its decisions the constitutionality of certain statutes challenged by appellant, the court's holdings necessitate a finding that the related statutes likewise are constitutional. Accordingly, we affirm.

         Background

         During the course of a robbery, appellant shot and killed the individual he was robbing. A jury convicted appellant of capital murder. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 19.03(a)(2) (Vernon Supp. 2016). Because he was 17 years old at the time of the murder, appellant received a mandatory sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years' time served. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.31(a)(1) (Vernon Supp. 2016); Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 508.145(b) (Vernon Supp. 2016).

         Appellant filed a motion to declare certain penal code and government code statutes facially unconstitutional as violating his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. See Garza v. State, 435 S.W.3d 258, 262 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014) (Eighth Amendment individualized sentencing claims are not forfeited on appeal by failure to object at trial). The trial court denied the motion. Appellant timely appealed.

         Standard of Review

         We review the facial constitutionality of a criminal statute de novo. Ex parte Lo, 424 S.W.3d 10, 14 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). We presume the statute is valid and that the legislature did not act arbitrarily or unreasonably in enacting it. Rodriguez v. State, 93 S.W.3d 60, 69 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002); Matthews v. State, Nos. 14-15-00452-CR, 14-15-00577-CV, 14-15-00616-CV, 2016 WL 6561467, at *10 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Nov. 6, 2016, pet. filed). To prevail on a facial challenge to a statute, the challenging party must establish that no set of circumstances exists under which the statute would be constitutionally valid. State v. Rosseau, 396 S.W.3d 550, 557 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013).

         Analysis

         In a single issue, appellant contends that the mandatory sentencing nature of Texas Penal Code section 12.31(a)(1) and Texas Government Code sections 508.145(b) and (d)(1) violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Appellant contends that those statutes are facially unconstitutional.

         Texas Penal Code section 12.31(a)(1) sets a mandatory punishment for juveniles convicted of capital murder:

An individual adjudged guilty of a capital felony in a case in which the state does not seek the death penalty shall be punished by imprisonment in the Texas ...

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