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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:From Jan. 1, 2001, through May 9, 2005, Sunday Oluwatoyin Ajisebutu used the personal information, including names and social security numbers, of Susanne Nink, Otto Harrison, Nyet Hue, Dawn Holmes, Erik Reyna, Guy Duc Nguyen, Bradford Bryant, Lee Lin, Henry Ennis, Paul White, Sean Pellegrino and Donald Thacker to open credit card, bank and telephone accounts without their permission. Ajisebutu used the unauthorized accounts to purchase clothes, watches, computers, home-improvement items, electronics and small appliances in an amount totaling approximately $172,000. Authorities discovered the scheme and indicted him for money laundering funds in excess of $100,000. A jury found Ajisebutu guilty and, after a punishment hearing, assessed his punishment at 60 years in prison. Ajisebutu filed a motion for new trial in which he asserted, among other complaints, that his punishment was excessive and violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and corresponding prohibitions in the Texas Constitution and Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The trial court overruled Ajisebutu’s motion for new trial. HOLDING:Affirmed. The state contended that Ajisebutu waived his right to challenge his punishment as excessive, because he failed to object at sentencing. To determine whether Ajisebutu’s general objection of “cruel and unusual punishment” in his motion for new trial preserved his general objection based on federal and state constitutional and statutory grounds, the court considered case law dealing with the sufficiency of imprecise objections. The court found that under the Court of Criminal Appeals’ 2004 opinion Heidelberg v. State it “must look to the context of each case in order to see if the ground of the objection was apparent.” The court noted that Ajisebutu made no objection at his punishment hearing and did not cite to either a federal or state constitutional provision in his motion for new trial. Instead, Ajisebutu objected to his 60-year sentence by stating only, “[Ajisebutu's] punishment of incarceration for a period of sixty years is excessive and violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.” Thus, the court found that Ajisebutu objected only using the conjunctive language of the federal constitution. The court concluded that Ajisebutu’s state constitutional and statutory grounds were not apparent from the context in these circumstances, and thus waived. Moving on to Ajisebutu’s federal claim, the court noted that a sentence within the statutory range of punishment for an offense will generally not be held cruel or unusual under the U.S. Constitution. The statutory range of punishment for Ajisebutu’s first-degree felony offense was five to 99 years or life and a fine not to exceed $10,000. In support of his contention that the 60-year sentence imposed upon him constituted cruel and unusual punishment, Ajisebutu cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1983 decision in Solem v. Helm. In Solem, the Supreme Court held that criminal sentences must be proportionate to the crime and that even a sentence within the statutorily prescribed range may violate the Eighth Amendment. The Supreme Court also stated, however, that “[r]eviewing courts . . . should grant substantial deference to the broad authority that legislatures necessarily possess in determining the types and limits of punishments for crimes, as well as to the discretion that trial courts possess in sentencing convicted criminals.” The 1st Court of Appeals also noted that the Supreme Court set forth three objective criteria to evaluate proportionality claims, including: 1. the gravity of the offense and the harshness of the penalty; 2. the sentences imposed on other criminals in the same jurisdiction; and 3. the sentences imposed for commission of the same crime in other jurisdictions. But the court did not use the three-prong test to evaluate Ajisebutu’s sentence. The court stated that in accordance with Solem, it would grant “substantial deference to the broad authority that the Legislature necessarily possesses in determining the types and limits of punishments for crimes, as well as to the discretion that the trial court possesses in sentencing convicted criminals.” Under these circumstances, the court held that Ajisebutu’s 60-year sentence was not grossly disproportionate. Therefore, the court stated that a comparison to other jurisdictions was not required. OPINION:Taft, J.; Taft, Alcala and Hanks, J.J.

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