BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Two defendants convicted of the grisly murders of an elderly couple in southwest Bakersfield will be resentenced in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year banning mandatory life-without-parole prison sentences.
Kyle Hoffman, 21, and Luis Palafox, 20, appeared in court briefly Monday morning and are scheduled to have a status conference Jan. 16 regarding their resentencing in front of Kern County Superior Court Judge John S. Somers. Both were sentenced to life without parole in the murders of Joseph, 81, and Dorothy Parrott, 77.
Prosecutor David Zulfa said following Monday's hearing that he will argue the original sentence is appropriate considering the vicious nature of the crime. He stressed that the Supreme Court's decision does not overturn the murder convictions of Hoffman and Palafox, nor does it rule out the possibility that Somers won't stick with the original sentence.
The judge will have the discretion to sentence the two to 25 years to life. Palafox's defense attorney, Michael C. Lukehart, said that would be the best outcome for his client and would at least give him the possibility of one day showing rehabilitation and becoming free.
"(Palafox) said he was glad to see me and was looking forward to working with me again," Lukehart said.
The Supreme Court ruling makes it clear that there's a difference between juveniles and adults, and they should be treated differently regarding punishment, Lukehart said. When Palafox was sentenced, Lukehart objected to the punishment as cruel and unusual under the Constitution.
The Supreme Court's 5-4 June decision ruled that children can't automatically be punished the same as adults without consideration of their age and other factors, The Associated Press reported. The decision left open the possibility that individual judges could sentence juveniles to life without parole in individual cases of murder, but said state and federal laws cannot automatically impose such a sentence, The AP said.
Palafox was 16 and Hoffman 17 when they went to the Parrotts' residence on Aug. 4, 2008. Hoffman told investigators he and Palafox broke into the home in the middle of the night looking for items to steal, according to police reports filed in court.
Hoffman has said that he waited outside and heard the sounds of Palafox stabbing the couple with a knife and beating them with a baseball bat, the reports says. Zulfa has said Hoffman participated in the killings, but even if he didn't his sentence was appropriate because he knew that killings were possible, his role aided the killings and he stole from the victims after they were killed.