A convicted killer learned Friday that he must serve at least seven more years in state prison for the 1997 shooting of a popular Prosser teacher’s aide.
Any hope Jose Angel Munguia had of being a free man in the near future was dashed when it was noted that Judge Vic VanderSchoor had no discretion in resentencing the former Grandview man.
Munguia, now 33, has been locked up since he was 15.
He was ordered Friday to serve a mandatory minimum of 25 years for the death of Guivi Darbeliani.
The new sentence carries a maximum term of life, meaning Munguia’s eventual release will be up to the state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board based on his behavior behind bars and the risk to the community.
In 2012, Munguia learned that his case was one of about 30 statewide affected by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that threw out all mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles.
The 5-4 ruling by the nation’s highest court concluded that a mandatory sentencing rule that sends teens convicted of aggravated first-degree murder to prison for life amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment.
It was in response to appeals from two cases in Alabama and Arkansas, in which the defendants were 14 when they committed their crimes. However, the ruling didn’t make it clear whether a sentencing judge could send a killer back to prison for life with an exceptional sentence or if they had to stick to the standard range for the crime.
The range for first-degree murder in Washington is 20 to 27 years.
So the state Legislature took action during the 2014 session and set new sentencing guidelines for killers under age 16.
The state Supreme Court then determined that the legislative fix remedied the unlawfulness of the life terms by automatically entitling those offenders to resentencing “in a manner that does not violate the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment.”
Munguia had the only case in Benton-Franklin Superior Court.
On July 5, 1997, Munguia shot Darbeliani three times in the head, then dumped him in an irrigation canal after trying to rob the man.
Darbeliani, 27, was an immigrant, a teacher’s aide and a community volunteer in Prosser.
Munguia and his two accomplices, brothers Valentin and Ricardo Sanchez, lured Darbeliani into a remote orchard to take his sports car, which they then drove around for a few days.
Prosecutors told jurors in 1998 that Darbeliani did nothing to provoke Munguia or anyone else.
Munguia claimed self-defense, but a jury convicted him of aggravated first-degree murder because of the robbery motive.
At his original sentencing, Munguia insisted he was not a murderer. He berated police and the judicial system, and said he was shocked that for going to police to try to straighten things out he was going to end up dying in prison.
On Friday, Munguia didn’t have much to say other than that he understood what was happening. He was represented by attorney Mitch Harrison of Seattle.
Munguia had been incarcerated in a prison outside of Washington since early 2014. The move was part of the state Department of Correction’s Interstate Compact process, which often is for security reasons.
He was transferred to the Benton County jail on Feb. 18 for his resentencing.
Munguia was informed that “the order setting minimum term is subject to review” with the filing of a personal restraint petition in an appellate court. He has one year to file, and said he believes the order gives him the right to appeal.