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STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA v. CARLOS C. QUEVEDO
Case Number: 2020 S.D. 42
Judge: Mark Salter
Court: IN THE SUPREME COURT
STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA
Plaintiff's Attorney: JASON R. RAVNSBORG
ANN C. MEYER
Assistant Attorney General
Just Call 855-853-4800 for Free Help Finding a Lawyer Help You.
Rapid City, SD - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant Rodney Dain Doster with claiming his sentence is unconstitutional because it violates categorical limitations placed upon sentences for juveniles and because it is disproportionately harsh.
Carlos Quevedo spent the evening of January 17, 2017, ingesting cold
medicine, alcohol, and marijuana with his friends in Rapid City. Quevedo and his
friends also stole food and alcohol from two local convenience stores and went
through unlocked cars looking for items to steal. Quevedo’s friend, Cody Grady,
found a knife in one of the cars, but Quevedo took it from him because he thought
Grady was too intoxicated to carry a weapon.
[¶3.] As the evening progressed into the early morning hours of January 18,
Quevedo and Grady decided to steal beer from another local convenience store. The
store’s surveillance video shows Quevedo and Grady walking into the store and the
events that followed. Grady’s first attempt to steal a case of beer was thwarted by
the store’s clerk, Kasie Lord, who took the case of beer away from him and placed it
behind the counter. Grady then went back and grabbed another case of beer. Lord
positioned herself in front of the door and called 911. As she began to struggle with
Grady to recover the second case of beer, Quevedo started stabbing Lord in the back
with the stolen knife. Lord can be heard on the 911 call asking Quevedo, “What are
you doing? Are you stabbing me?” Lord then tells him to “Stop it! You’ve got the
beer!” and begins screaming as Quevedo stabs her. Quevedo can be heard saying,
“Shut the fuck up, bitch.”
[¶4.] Freed from Lord’s efforts to intervene, Grady ran from the store with
the opened case of beer, dropping cans as he ran. However, Quevedo did not leave.
He followed Lord into the parking lot and continued his attack, stabbing her
repeatedly before fleeing on foot. Quevedo went to Grady’s home, located within one
block of the convenience store, where he changed out of the distinctive sweatshirt he
wore during the killing and hid it above some drop ceiling tiles.
[¶5.] Law enforcement officers arrived at the convenience store shortly after
the stabbing and found Lord lying in the parking lot surrounded by a pool of blood.
They noted numerous stab wounds to her chest, abdomen, and back with little to no
active bleeding. An ambulance arrived and transported her to the hospital where
she later died. Lord’s autopsy revealed 38 stab wounds in addition to defensive
wounds on her hands.
[¶6.] The officers reviewed the store’s surveillance video and followed a trail
of loose beer cans and bloody shoe imprints to Grady’s home where they
apprehended both Quevedo and Grady. Quevedo told the officers that he had
blacked out and had no memory of stabbing Lord.
[¶7.] A grand jury indicted Quevedo on alternate counts of first-degree
premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, and second-degree murder, along
with first-degree robbery. Quevedo initially moved to have the case transferred to
juvenile court, but later withdrew the motion and accepted a plea agreement with
the State under which he agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder.1 In
exchange, the State agreed to dismiss all other charges and recommend a term-ofyears sentence.
[¶8.] During the change-of-plea hearing, the court explained to the parties
that Quevedo’s decision to remain in adult court did not change the fact that
Quevedo “was a juvenile at the time the offense occurred, and, therefore, is not
subject to a penalty of mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole.”2
Quevedo told the court that he had blacked out at the time of the killing but had
reviewed the evidence and had no doubt that he had killed Lord. Quevedo also told
the court that he understood his voluntary intoxication was not a defense to the
killing. The circuit court accepted the guilty plea and ordered a presentence
[¶9.] At the subsequent sentencing hearing, the court heard testimony from
several law enforcement officers who had responded to Lord’s 911 call and others
who had been involved in the murder investigation. The court also saw the
surveillance video footage of Quevedo’s attack. With different camera locations, the
recorded footage showed Quevedo initially stabbing Lord seven times inside the
store at roughly the same time Lord was pleading for help during the 911 call. Lord
1. Under SDCL 22-16-7, “[h]omicide is murder in the second degree if
perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to others and evincing a
depraved mind, without regard for human life, although without any
premeditated design to effect the death of any particular person . . . .”
2. Second-degree murder is a Class B felony, and for adult offenders, it is
punishable by a mandatory sentence of life in prison. See SDCL 22-16-12
(classifying grades of murder offenses); SDCL 22-6-1 (listing authorized
moved away from Quevedo and through the convenience store’s front door as Grady
left the scene. The footage shows Quevedo move in the opposite direction in pursuit
of Lord to continue his deadly knife attack in the parking lot, beyond the range of
the surveillance cameras.
[¶10.] Quevedo’s mitigation case focused on his difficult childhood, which
included instability, domestic violence committed by his father, both parents’
substance abuse, and his father’s prolonged absences due to incarceration. In fact,
in an unrelated appeal involving Quevedo’s mother, we recounted the circumstances
of a 2012 arrest involving his parents at the family’s home. See State v. Quevedo,
2014 S.D. 6, ¶ 6, 843 N.W.2d 351, 353-54. Quevedo, then 12 years old, answered the
door for law enforcement officers, who found both of his parents using drugs in the
[¶11.] Quevedo’s mother testified at his sentencing, expressing pain and
regret about the impact her addiction had on her family.3 Another individual wrote
in a letter of support that Quevedo grew up in an impoverished neighborhood
plagued with drug abuse, lamenting that Quevedo “almost made it” out of his
difficult circumstances when he was accepted at Riverside Indian School in
Oklahoma. Additional evidence suggested that Quevedo had done well at the school
and was highly regarded by his teachers. Though he had earned the right to
participate in the high school graduation ceremony, he was unable to do so as he
awaited trial for Lord’s murder.
3. Quevedo’s mother successfully addressed her drug addiction through a local
drug court program.
[¶12.] Quevedo’s other sentencing evidence indicated that he had a history of
abusing cold medicine, alcohol, and marijuana. He continued his assertion that his
consumption of all three during the evening of January 17 and early morning of
January 18 had caused him to black out during Lord’s murder. Quevedo contended
that the substance abuse led him to aberrational conduct that he was incapable of
committing under ordinary circumstances. To support the claim, he offered expert
testimony from Dr. Teri Hastings, a forensic psychologist who conducted Quevedo’s
psychological evaluation. Dr. Hastings testified that Quevedo had tested within
normal behavioral ranges, leading her to consider his claim of a blackout plausible.
She also explained the physiological development of critical decision-making parts
of the brain continues into the mid-20s for young males.
[¶13.] The circuit court recognized Quevedo’s young age and the applicability
of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, which prohibits
mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles. 567 U.S.
460, 465, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 2460, 183 L. Ed. 2d 407 (2012). Citing Miller, the circuit
court explained the qualitative differences between juvenile offenders and adult
offenders. The former, the court stated, are more vulnerable to “negative
influences” and are less able “to extricate themselves from crime-producing
circumstances.” See Miller, 567 U.S. at 471, 132 S. Ct. at 2464. Accordingly, the
court noted that a juvenile’s actions are “less likely to evidence irretrievable
depravity,” resulting in diminished “penological justifications of retribution,
deterrence and incapacitation.” See id. at 472, 132 S. Ct. at 2465.
[¶14.] In its consideration of the sentencing evidence, the circuit court
commented on the brutality of the crime, noting that Quevedo could have stopped
stabbing Lord and fled with Grady, but instead chose to pursue Lord and continue
the attack to a fatal conclusion. The court also noted that Quevedo was just eight
months from his 18th birthday when he killed Lord and would have been subject to
a mandatory life sentence had he been 18 at the time of the offense.
[¶15.] The court considered Quevedo’s mitigating evidence, including his
turbulent childhood, noting that Quevedo had developed his own difficulties with
drug and alcohol abuse and had some prior involvement with the criminal justice
system. The court, however, observed that Quevedo did not offer his troubled
upbringing as an excuse for murdering Lord and had, in the court’s view, accepted
responsibility for his conduct. Quevedo was relatively mature compared to his peer
group, the court noted, remarking that he grew up “long before young people ever
dream of . . . .” Quevedo had done well at Riverside Indian School, the court stated,
and had a history of caring for his younger siblings and had plans to join the
military. The court credited Dr. Hastings’ testing, which showed normal
psychological behavior for a 17-year-old.
[¶16.] Given the seriousness of the offense, the court acknowledged the need
to protect the community against the possibility that Quevedo would kill again. The
court believed Quevedo presented a significant risk to public safety because the
deliberate nature of Lord’s murder established that he was capable of killing
someone when under the influence.
[¶17.] After weighing the evidence contained in the sentencing record, the
court sentenced Quevedo to 90 years in prison, making him eligible for parole in
2062 when he is 62 years old.
[¶18.] Quevedo raises two issues on appeal, which we restate as follows:
1. Whether the circuit court’s sentence violated categorical
Eighth Amendment sentencing restrictions.
2. Whether the circuit court’s sentence was grossly
disproportionate to his crime in violation of the Eighth
Categorical Eighth Amendment Sentencing Restrictions for Juveniles
[¶19.] The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, applied to
the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits “cruel and unusual
punishments,” which the United States Supreme Court has interpreted to include
“the right not to be subjected to excessive sanctions.” Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S.
551, 560, 125 S. Ct. 1183, 1190, 161 L. Ed. 2d 1 (2005) (citing Atkins v. Virginia, 536
U.S. 304, 311, 122 S. Ct. 2242, 2246, 153 L. Ed. 2d 335 (2002)); see also U.S. Const.
amend. VIII; S.D. Const. art. VI, § 23 (prohibiting the infliction of “cruel
punishments”). “We review de novo whether a defendant’s sentence is cruel and
unusual in violation of the Eighth Amendment.” State v. Jensen, 2017 S.D. 18, ¶ 9,
894 N.W.2d 397, 400.
[¶20.] In a series of decisions over the past 15 years, the United States
Supreme Court has created several categorical restrictions upon the imposition of
the most severe sentences for juvenile offenders. In 2005, the Supreme Court held
that sentencing a juvenile to death violates the Eighth Amendment. Roper, 543
U.S. at 578-79, 125 S. Ct. at 1200. In Graham v. Florida, decided five years later,
the Supreme Court held that imposing a sentence of life in prison without the
possibility of parole for juveniles who commit non-homicide offenses constitutes
cruel and unusual punishment. 560 U.S. 48, 82, 130 S. Ct. 2011, 2034, 176 L. Ed.
2d 825 (2010). More relevant to this appeal is the United States Supreme Court’s
2012 decision in Miller, which held that mandatory life sentences without parole for
juvenile homicide offenders also violate the Eighth Amendment. 567 U.S. at 465,
132 S. Ct. at 2460.4
[¶21.] Permeating these holdings is an overarching rationale that juveniles
“are less deserving of the most severe punishments” due to their “‘lack of maturity
and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility’ leading to recklessness, impulsivity,
and heedless risk-taking.” Id. at 471, 132 S. Ct. at 2464 (first quoting Graham, 560
U.S. at 68, 130 S. Ct. at 2026; then quoting Roper, 543 U.S. at 569, 125 S. Ct at
1195). The Supreme Court’s decisions also account for juveniles’ susceptibility to
“‘negative influences and outside pressures’ [and] . . . limited ‘control over their own
environment’” along with the fact that juveniles’ traits are “less fixed” than adults
and their actions are “less likely to be ‘evidence of irretrievable depravity.’” Id.
(quoting Roper, 543 U.S. at 569-70, 125 S. Ct. at 1195). These tenets reflect the
Supreme Court’s inclination to view the Eighth Amendment’s central concept of
4. In 2016, the United States Supreme Court determined in Montgomery v.
Louisiana that Miller applied retroactively to juveniles serving life-withoutparole sentences. ___ U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 718, 728, 193 L. Ed. 2d 599 (2016).
The Montgomery holding was the basis for resentencing the defendants in
State v. Charles, 2017 S.D. 10, 892 N.W.2d 915, and Jensen, 2017 S.D. 18,
894 N.W.2d 397.
proportionality “less through a historical prism than according to ‘the evolving
standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.’” Id. at 469-70,
132 S. Ct. at 2463 (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102, 97 S. Ct. 285, 290,
50 L. Ed. 2d 251 (1976)).
[¶22.] The Miller holding instructs sentencing courts to consider the following
individualized factors to adequately account for the offender’s status as a juvenile:
(1) the chronological age of the juvenile, (2) the juvenile’s
immaturity, impetuosity, irresponsibility, and recklessness, (3)
family and home environment, (4) incompetency in dealing with
law enforcement and the adult criminal justice system, (5) the
circumstances of the crime, and, most importantly, (6) the
possibility for rehabilitation.
State v. Springer, 2014 S.D. 80, ¶ 14, 856 N.W.2d 460, 465-66 (citing Miller, 567
U.S. at 477-78, 132 S. Ct. at 2468).
[¶23.] Here, Quevedo pled guilty to second-degree murder, which would have
required a mandatory life sentence if he had been 18 at the time of the offense.
However, Miller prohibits the imposition of a mandatory life sentence without the
possibility of parole. The record here demonstrates that the circuit court was aware
of this sentencing restriction and correctly perceived the limits of its sentencing
authority when it considered Quevedo’s sentence.
[¶24.] The circuit court considered Miller’s youthful offender sentencing
factors. Specifically, the court acknowledged that Quevedo was 17 years old when
he killed Lord, although the court also found Quevedo “much more mature than
most [his age] . . . as he appeared to be the only responsible person in his home.”
The court recognized the difficult challenges Quevedo faced growing up and the
serious dysfunction he had experienced in his home life. The court viewed this
mitigating evidence as contextual and determined that Quevedo had taken
responsibility for his actions without using the circumstances of his upbringing as a
reason to equivocate about the level of his culpability.
[¶25.] The court also noted that Quevedo had experience with law
enforcement and the adult criminal justice system gained vicariously through his
parents. His own direct experiences were limited to previous non-violent offenses
and a term of juvenile probation declared unsuccessful after he absconded.
[¶26.] The details of Lord’s murder included Quevedo’s choice to pursue her
and continue his knife attack after his friend had left the store with the beer. The
circuit court observed that “of the thousands of people who have been through this
system with drug and alcohol problems, and the millions of people nationwide, very
few result in a violent act such as this . . . .” The circuit court also determined that
Quevedo demonstrated consciousness of his crime in his effort to conceal his
identity by quickly hiding the distinctive sweatshirt he had worn during the murder
after he arrived at Grady’s home.
[¶27.] The court contrasted the evidence of Quevedo’s “polite and quiet”
nature with the circumstances of Lord’s murder. It recognized Quevedo’s academic
achievements while wondering aloud whether his vicious conduct was the result of
the drugs, cold medicine, and alcohol or perhaps a consequence of his violent home
life, asking rhetorically, “Why did it take the death of a woman who went to work to
provide for her family and then paid the ultimate price protecting someone else’s
property to get [Quevedo] some help . . . ?”
[¶28.] The court also considered the traditional sentencing factor of public
There is no way to predict his actions. The problem this Court
has is that I have now seen the ultimate worst kind of result of
the actions for which Mr. Quevedo is capable while under the
influence of the variety of these substances: the death of another
human being. And it is very difficult to run the risk that it could
happen again to somebody else.
[¶29.] The circuit court’s ultimate decision to sentence Quevedo to a term of
90 years in the penitentiary with the possibility of parole at age 62 complies with
Miller and our cases applying it. The court did not sentence Quevedo to a
mandatory life sentence and sufficiently considered his youth when fashioning his
sentence for Lord’s murder. There is, therefore, no Eighth Amendment violation
based upon the sentencing requirements set out in Miller.
[¶30.] Quevedo’s argument that his sentence is cruel and unusual because its
length “condemns him to die in prison” overlooks the essential holding of Miller,
which prohibits only mandatory life sentences for juvenile homicide offenders. 567
U.S. at 489, 132 S. Ct. at 2475. Because mandatory life sentences deprive
sentencing courts of the discretion to consider the impact of youth in determining an
appropriate sentence, they are categorically cruel and unusual. Id. However, the
Supreme Court has not extended Miller to discretionary life sentences, much less
their functional, or de facto, equivalent. See State v. Charles, 2017 S.D. 10, ¶ 12,
892 N.W.2d 915, 920 (“The United States Supreme Court bars mandatory life
sentences without parole against juvenile homicide offenders, not discretionary
sentences of life without parole.”).
[¶31.] Notwithstanding this, our cases have seemed to suggest that a juvenile
sentence involving a lengthy term of years and the lack of a meaningful opportunity
for release could constitute a de facto life sentence and transgress Graham’s
categorical Eighth Amendment prohibition on life without parole—even in a
homicide case. See, e.g., id. ¶ 15, 892 N.W.2d at 921 (first quoting Springer, 2014
S.D. 80, ¶ 23, 856 N.W.2d at 469; then quoting Graham, 560 U.S. at 82, 130 S. Ct.
at 2034) (“A State need not guarantee the offender eventual release, but if it
imposes a sentence of life it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity
to obtain release before the end of that term.”); State v. Diaz, 2016 S.D. 78, ¶ 58, 887
N.W.2d 751, 768 (citing Springer, 2014 S.D. 80, ¶ 24, 856 N.W.2d at 469)
(contrasting defendant’s opportunity for parole with defendant’s inability to obtain
parole in Graham); Jensen, 2017 S.D. 18, ¶ 13, 894 N.W.2d at 401 (analyzing the
life sentence “functional equivalent” argument by citing Diaz, which, in turn, cites
Springer and Graham).5
[¶32.] We take this opportunity to reaffirm and clarify that Graham’s
categorical bar upon all life-without-parole juvenile sentences applies only to nonhomicide cases.6 For juvenile homicide offenders, like Quevedo, Miller’s Eighth
5. Though the facts of Springer involved a homicide, the defendant pled guilty
to the non-homicide offense of kidnapping.
6. Quevedo does not directly ask that we expand the Supreme Court’s
categorical prohibition for mandatory life sentences in homicide cases, but in
his reply brief, he submits that his argument for an Eighth Amendment
violation “aligns with Miller’s statements” about the exceptional nature of
any life sentence for a juvenile. This is a reference to the Miller Court’s
comments following its decision not to address the two petitioners’
alternative argument that any life sentence for a juvenile violates the Eighth
(continued . . .)
Amendment restriction is narrower than Graham’s, undoubtedly because homicide
offenses represent a more serious class of crimes.7 Of course, Graham’s essential
statements about youth can apply to all juvenile sentencings. See Miller, 567 U.S.
at 473, 132 S. Ct. at 2465 (“[N]one of what [Graham] said about children—about
their distinctive (and transitory) mental traits and environmental vulnerabilities—
is crime-specific.”). But discretionary sentences for juvenile offenders convicted of
homicide offenses are not amenable to a Graham-style attack as de facto life
sentences. Indeed, life sentences imposed as a matter of discretion upon juveniles
in homicide cases do not violate any of the categorical Eighth Amendment
limitations established in Roper, Graham, or Miller.8
(. . . continued)
Amendment, effectively extending Graham to homicide cases. We see no
reason to consider Quevedo’s claim further, however, because we are also not
inclined to extend Graham and because our Legislature has acted to prohibit
all life sentences for juveniles. See infra ¶¶ 33-34.
7. The United States Supreme Court in Graham “took care to distinguish [nonhomicide] offenses from murder, based on both moral culpability and
consequential harm.” Miller, 567 U.S. at 473, 132 S. Ct. at 2465 (citing
Graham, 560 U.S. at 69, 130 S. Ct. at 2027).
8. Quevedo urges us to consider decisions from other jurisdictions, holding that
a lengthy term-of-years sentence “condemns a juvenile to die in prison.” See
McKinley v. Butler, 809 F.3d 908 (7th Cir. 2016) (granting habeas relief for a
court’s failure to address Miller factors when it sentenced a juvenile in 2004
to a discretionary 100-year sentence for first-degree murder and deadly use of
a firearm); People v. Caballero, 282 P.3d 291 (Cal. 2012) (holding that
sentencing a juvenile to two discretionary 110-year sentences for three counts
of attempted murder constitutes cruel and unusual punishment); Henry v.
State, 175 So. 3d 675 (Fla. 2015) (holding a juvenile’s aggregate 90-year termof-years discretionary sentence for a non-homicide offense unconstitutional).
These cases are not helpful here. Henry and Caballero did not involve
homicide offenses, and the federal appeals panel in McKinley applied “the
(continued . . .)
[¶33.] Separate and apart from these categorical constitutional Eighth
Amendment restrictions, however, our criminal code contains a definitive
prohibition on life sentences for juveniles. Following the Miller decision, our
Legislature enacted two statutes which forbid all life sentences, mandatory or
discretionary, for any offense by a juvenile, homicide or non-homicide. See SDCL
22-6-1 and SDCL 22-6-1.3.
[¶34.] The text of SDCL 22-6-1 states that “[i]f the defendant is under the age
of eighteen years at the time of the offense and found guilty of a Class A, B, or C
felony, the maximum sentence may be a term of years in the state penitentiary
. . . .” In perhaps more direct terms, SDCL 22-6-1.3 provides simply, “[t]he penalty
of life imprisonment may not be imposed upon any defendant for any offense
committed when the defendant was less than eighteen years of age.” Although we
have previously observed that “[a] life sentence is commonly understood to mean
spending the rest of one’s life in prison,” Charles, 2017 S.D. 10, ¶ 16, 892 N.W.2d at
921 (citation omitted), we have not interpreted the text of SDCL 22-6-1.3 in
connection with a de facto life sentence claim. See also SDCL 24-15-4 (“No inmate
sentenced to life imprisonment is eligible for parole . . .” except in the case of
compassionate parole). We think it is unnecessary to do so in this case for two
[¶35.] First, Quevedo has not specifically argued that the circuit court
exceeded its statutory sentencing authority by imposing a de facto life sentence.
(. . . continued)
logic of Miller” and granted habeas relief because the original sentencing
court had given no discernible consideration to the defendant’s youth.
Second, even if he had, Quevedo will be eligible for parole at age 62, which is within
his life expectancy, and we do not deem this sentence to be a de facto life sentence.
Though stated in the Eighth Amendment context, we have previously held in
several decisions that comparable term-of-years sentences for juvenile offenders did
not constitute a de facto life sentence where the defendant will become eligible for
parole before reaching the defendant’s life expectancy. See, e.g., Charles, 2017 S.D.
10, ¶ 16, 892 N.W.2d at 921 (resentencing a juvenile to a 92-year discretionary
sentence for first-degree murder with parole eligibility at age 60 is not a life
sentence); Jensen, 2017 S.D. 18, ¶ 18, 894 N.W.2d at 402 (resentencing a juvenile to
concurrent 200-year discretionary sentences for first-degree murder and kidnapping
with parole eligibility at age 39 is not a de facto life sentence); Diaz, 2016 S.D. 78, ¶
58, 887 N.W.2d at 768 (sentencing a juvenile to 80 years for first-degree murder and
kidnapping with parole eligibility after 40 years is not a de facto life sentence).
Case Specific Eighth Amendment Proportionality
[¶36.] As an alternative to his claim that his 90-year sentence constitutes a
categorical Eighth Amendment violation, Quevedo also argues his sentence violates
the Eighth Amendment because it is disproportionate to his second-degree murder
conviction. “Under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ‘a
criminal sentence must be proportionate to the crime for which the defendant has
been convicted.’” Diaz, 2016 S.D. 78, ¶ 51, 887 N.W.2d at 766 (quoting Solem v.
Helm, 463 U.S. 277, 290, 103 S. Ct. 3001, 3009, 77 L. Ed. 2d 637 (1983)).
[¶37.] In Diaz, we held that the Eighth Amendment does not require strict
proportionality between the crime and the sentence, but instead “forbids only
extreme sentences that are ‘grossly disproportionate’ to the crime.” 2016 S.D. 78, ¶
51, 887 N.W.2d at 766 (quoting Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957, 1001, 111 S.
Ct. 2680, 2705, 115 L. Ed. 2d 836 (1991) (Kennedy, J., concurring in part and
concurring in the judgment)). We determine gross disproportionality by comparing
the “gravity of the offense against the harshness of the penalty.” Id. We also
“consider other conduct relevant to the crime” when reviewing a sentence for gross
disproportionality. Id. ¶ 52, 887 N.W.2d at 767 (quoting State v. Garreau, 2015 S.D.
36, ¶ 12, 864 N.W.2d 771, 776). Only if this threshold inquiry reveals gross
disproportionality will we compare Quevedo’s sentence to other sentences imposed
on juveniles convicted of second-degree murder. See id. ¶ 51, 887 N.W.2d at 766.
[¶38.] Here, Quevedo has not met the threshold inquiry by demonstrating
gross disproportionality. Regarding the gravity of the offense, Quevedo’s seconddegree murder conviction ranks high in its “relative position on the spectrum of all
criminality.” Id. ¶ 52, 887 N.W.2d at 766 (quoting State v. Chipps, 2016 S.D. 8, ¶
35, 874 N.W.2d 475, 487); see also State v. Rice, 2016 S.D. 18, ¶ 14, 877 N.W.2d 75,
80 (quoting 4 William Blackstone, Commentaries, *177-78) (“[H]omicide has long
been considered ‘the highest crime against the law of nature, that man is capable of
committing.’”). Quevedo brutally killed Lord by stabbing her 38 times to facilitate
the theft of a case of beer. After initially stabbing her in the convenience store, he
pursued Lord to the parking lot and continued his knife attack, leaving her bleeding
to death on the pavement. The circumstances suggest a high level of aggression
and gratuitous violence. As the circuit court observed, Quevedo made the deliberate
choice to pursue Lord, repeatedly stabbing her long after Grady had left with the
[¶39.] The second portion of the inquiry—the harshness of the penalty—
requires us to consider “the penalty’s relative position on the spectrum of permitted
punishments.” Diaz, 2016 S.D. 78, ¶ 54, 887 N.W.2d at 767 (quoting Chipps, 2016
S.D. 8, ¶ 37, 874 N.W.2d at 488). When considering the harshness of the penalty,
we also consider whether the defendant is eligible for parole. See id. ¶ 55, 887
N.W.2d at 768. As indicated above, the maximum sentence a juvenile can receive
under SDCL 22-6-1 is “a term of years in the state penitentiary, and a fine of fifty
thousand dollars . . . .” The court’s 90-year sentence leaves Quevedo eligible for
parole in 45 years. He received credit for 428 days served and was ordered to pay
only costs and reimbursements amounting to less than $2,000. This punishment,
on the spectrum of possible punishments for second-degree murder, is not unduly
[¶40.] Of course, Quevedo was 17 years old at the time of the offense, but as
indicated above, the circuit court was keenly aware of the mitigating effect of
Quevedo’s youth as a general proposition. The court also understood and weighed
the impact of specific aspects associated with his difficult childhood.
[¶41.] After considering the gravity of the offense and assessing the relative
harshness of Quevedo’s sentence, we conclude that he cannot meet the initial
requirement to show that his sentence is grossly disproportionate to his crime. His
alternative Eighth Amendment claim is, therefore, unsustainable, and it is
unnecessary to compare Quevedo’s sentence against those of other defendants
convicted of second-degree murder.
Outcome: Quevedo’s 90-year discretionary sentence does not offend the Eighth
Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, either as a
categorically prohibited mandatory life sentence or as a sentence that is
disproportionate to the offense.