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Circuit courts possess statutory competency to proceed in criminal matters when the adult defendant was charged for conduct he committed before his tenth birthday. Defendant was charged with four counts of criminal misconduct. Defendant was nine through twelve years old during the time period charged in count one and fourteen through eighteen years old during the time period charged in counts two through four. Defendant was nineteen years old when the charges were filed. The jury acquitted Defendant of count one but convicted him of counts two through four. Defendant brought a postconviction motion alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to bring a pre-trial motion to dismiss count one. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the defendant’s age at the time he is charged, not his age at the time the underlying conduct occurred, determines whether charges are properly brought as a criminal matter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court possessed statutory competency to hear Defendant’s case as a criminal matter because he was an adult at the time he was charged; and (2) therefore, Defendant’s counsel did not perform deficiently by failing to raise a meritless motion. View "State v. Sanders" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed a juvenile defendant's life sentence without parole where the juvenile was convicted of felony murder and other crimes. The panel held that the district court did not err in resentencing defendant by first calculating and using the sentencing guideline range of life imprisonment; under Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), the district court was required to consider the hallmark features of youth before imposing a sentence of life without parole on a juvenile offender; and the district court took into account evidence of defendant's rehabilitation as part of its inquiry into whether defendant was a member of a class of permanently incorrigible juvenile offenders. View "United States v. Briones, Jr." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of habeas relief and remanded with instructions to dismiss petitioner's habeas application with prejudice under the court's decision in United States v. Surratt, 855 F.3d 218 (4th Cir. 2017) (en banc). Petitioner was sentenced to 118 years in prison for nonhomicide crimes that he committed when he was 15 years old. Petitioner sought habeas relief after the Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), which prohibited juvenile offenders convicted of nonhomicide crimes from being sentenced to life without parole. While the application was pending, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell issued petitioner a partial pardon, reducing his sentence to 40 years' imprisonment. The court reasoned that had the district court properly applied Surratt, it would have been required to conclude that Governor McDonnell's valid partial pardon reducing petitioner's sentence to 40 years' imprisonment rendered his habeas application moot and that the district court was therefore without jurisdiction to address it and opine on the constitutionality of petitioner's original sentence under Graham. View "Blount v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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At issue was the validity of the procedures prescribed in N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-1340.19A - 15A-1340.19(D) (the Act) for the sentencing of juveniles convicted of first-degree murder in light of Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012) and its progeny. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes he committed when he was sixteen years old. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction, a sentence that was then mandatory. After Miller was decided, the trial court resentenced Defendant to life imprisonment without parole. On appeal, Defendant challenged the constitutionality of the Act. The Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the Act but reversed the resentencing judgment, concluding that the trial court failed to make adequate findings of fact to support its decision to impose the sentence. The Supreme Court modified and affirmed, holding (1) the Act does not incorporate a presumption in favor of a sentence of life without parole upon juveniles convicted of first-degree murder on the basis of a theory other than the felony murder rule; (2) the Act is not impermissibly vague, conducive to the imposition of arbitrary punishments, or an unconstitutional ex post facto law; and (3) further sentencing proceedings are required in this case. View "State v. James" on Justia Law

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The Juvenile Code does not mandate that a petition alleging a juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent must be filed only by the director or authorized agent of the department of social services of the county “in which the juvenile resides or is found.” See N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-101. The Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, Youth and Family Division (YFS) filed a juvenile petition with the District Court in Mecklenburg County alleging that A.P. was a neglected and dependent juvenile. The trial court concluded that A.P. was a neglected and dependent juvenile. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that YFS did not have standing to file the juvenile petition because Mecklenburg County was not the juvenile’s county of residence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statutory sections in the Juvenile Code governing parties and venue did not mandate dismissal of the juvenile petition under the circumstances of this case. View "In re A.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of Defendant’s motion to transfer his case to juvenile court. Defendant was seventeen years old when he was charged with multiple felonies. The district court sustained Defendant’s motion to transfer the case to juvenile court. The State appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in transferring the matter to juvenile court because (1) the State failed to meet its burden to show that a sound basis existed for retaining the matter in district court; (2) district the court sufficiently made the required findings pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 435-276; and (3) any error in the court’s deciding of the motion to transfer without first reading and considering police reports related to the investigation of the crimes charged was harmless. View "State v. Tyler P." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Kipland Kinkel pled guilty to four counts of murder and 25 counts of attempted murder, and pled no contest to a twenty-sixth count of attempted murder. On May 20, 1998, when petitioner was 15 years old, he was sent home from high school for bringing a gun to school. Later that day, he shot his father once in the head. Afterwards, he shot his mother five times in the head and once in the heart. He went to school the following day and shot and killed two students and wounded dozens more. In this post-conviction proceeding, petitioner argued that, because he was a juvenile when he committed his crimes, the Eighth Amendment prohibited the imposition of an aggregate sentence that was the functional equivalent of a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Petitioner’s federal argument entails primarily three issues: (1) whether, as a matter of state law, petitioner’s Eighth Amendment claim was procedurally barred; (2) if it was, whether Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S Ct 718 (2016), required the Oregon Supreme Court to reach petitioner’s Eighth Amendment claim despite the existence of that state procedural bar; and (3) if petitioner’s Eighth Amendment claim was not procedurally barred, whether and how Miller v. Alabama, 567 US 460 (2012), applied when a court imposed an aggregate sentence for multiple crimes committed by a juvenile. The Oregon Supreme Court held that, even if ORS 138.550(2) did not pose a procedural bar to petitioner’s Eighth Amendment claim, his claim failed on the merits. The Oregon Court concluded that the facts in this case, coupled with the sentencing court’s findings, brought petitioner within the narrow class of juveniles who, as Miller recognized, could be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. View "Kinkel v. Persson" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Kipland Kinkel pled guilty to four counts of murder and 25 counts of attempted murder, and pled no contest to a twenty-sixth count of attempted murder. On May 20, 1998, when petitioner was 15 years old, he was sent home from high school for bringing a gun to school. Later that day, he shot his father once in the head. Afterwards, he shot his mother five times in the head and once in the heart. He went to school the following day and shot and killed two students and wounded dozens more. In this post-conviction proceeding, petitioner argued that, because he was a juvenile when he committed his crimes, the Eighth Amendment prohibited the imposition of an aggregate sentence that was the functional equivalent of a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Petitioner’s federal argument entails primarily three issues: (1) whether, as a matter of state law, petitioner’s Eighth Amendment claim was procedurally barred; (2) if it was, whether Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S Ct 718 (2016), required the Oregon Supreme Court to reach petitioner’s Eighth Amendment claim despite the existence of that state procedural bar; and (3) if petitioner’s Eighth Amendment claim was not procedurally barred, whether and how Miller v. Alabama, 567 US 460 (2012), applied when a court imposed an aggregate sentence for multiple crimes committed by a juvenile. The Oregon Supreme Court held that, even if ORS 138.550(2) did not pose a procedural bar to petitioner’s Eighth Amendment claim, his claim failed on the merits. The Oregon Court concluded that the facts in this case, coupled with the sentencing court’s findings, brought petitioner within the narrow class of juveniles who, as Miller recognized, could be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. View "Kinkel v. Persson" on Justia Law

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This case addressed the adequacy of the parole remedy available under RCW 9.94A.730, the Miller "fix" statute. Jai'Mar Scott was convicted by a jury in 1990 of first degree premeditated murder for killing his neighbor, a 78-year-old-woman who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Scott was 17 years old when he committed the murder. The juvenile court declined jurisdiction, and Scott was tried, convicted, and sentenced as an adult. At sentencing, the parties agreed that the standard range was 240 to 320 months, with 240 months being the mandatory minimum sentence that could be imposed. The State requested an exceptional sentence above the standard range. The defense requested the low end of the standard range. The trial court sentenced Scott to an exceptional sentence of 900 months based on four independent findings: (1) that Scott's conduct constituted deliberate cruelty, (2) that his conduct was an abuse of trust, (3) that the crime involved multiple injuries, and (4) that the victim was particularly vulnerable. On direct appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the 900-month sentence imposed was not clearly excessive because the "aggravating factors are both numerous and individually and collectively egregious." The Court of Appeals also rejected Scott's assertion that his exceptional sentence was improper in light of his youth at the time of the crime. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed: consistent with the federal Supreme Court’s decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), the Washington Court held that RCW 9.94A.730's parole provision was an adequate remedy for a Miller violation, rendering unnecessary the resentencing of a defendant who long ago received a de facto life sentence as a juvenile. View "Washington v. Scott" on Justia Law

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This case addressed the adequacy of the parole remedy available under RCW 9.94A.730, the Miller "fix" statute. Jai'Mar Scott was convicted by a jury in 1990 of first degree premeditated murder for killing his neighbor, a 78-year-old-woman who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Scott was 17 years old when he committed the murder. The juvenile court declined jurisdiction, and Scott was tried, convicted, and sentenced as an adult. At sentencing, the parties agreed that the standard range was 240 to 320 months, with 240 months being the mandatory minimum sentence that could be imposed. The State requested an exceptional sentence above the standard range. The defense requested the low end of the standard range. The trial court sentenced Scott to an exceptional sentence of 900 months based on four independent findings: (1) that Scott's conduct constituted deliberate cruelty, (2) that his conduct was an abuse of trust, (3) that the crime involved multiple injuries, and (4) that the victim was particularly vulnerable. On direct appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the 900-month sentence imposed was not clearly excessive because the "aggravating factors are both numerous and individually and collectively egregious." The Court of Appeals also rejected Scott's assertion that his exceptional sentence was improper in light of his youth at the time of the crime. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed: consistent with the federal Supreme Court’s decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), the Washington Court held that RCW 9.94A.730's parole provision was an adequate remedy for a Miller violation, rendering unnecessary the resentencing of a defendant who long ago received a de facto life sentence as a juvenile. View "Washington v. Scott" on Justia Law