by
Based on acts that defendant Curtis Brooks committed when he was fifteen years old, prosecutors charged him as an adult with felony murder and other crimes. After a jury convicted Brooks on multiple counts, including the felony murder charge, the trial court imposed a mandatory life without the possibility of parole ("LWOP") sentence in accordance with Colorado’s then-applicable sentencing statutes. This case presented a question of whether Colorado’s recently enacted sentencing scheme for juvenile offenders who received unconstitutional mandatory sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole (“LWOP”) violates the Special Legislation Clause of the Colorado Constitution. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that it did not. View "Colorado v. Brooks" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the superior court judge’s denial of Defendant’s motion for resentencing, holding that Defendant, a juvenile convicted of armed home invasion, was sentenced to a mandatory minimum term exceeding that applicable to a juvenile convicted of murder without a hearing under Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460, 477-478 (2012), in violation of the requirements announced in Commonwealth v. Perez, 477 Mass. 677 (2017) (Perez I), and refined in Commonwealth v. Perez, 480 Mass. __ (2018) (Perez II), also decided today. Defendant was adjudicated a youthful offender on indictments charging armed home invasion and various related offenses and was sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison term of twenty years to twenty years and one day on the armed him invasion charge. Defendant later filed a motion for relief from unlawful restraint, which the juvenile court judge denied. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order denying Defendant’s motion and remanded to the juvenile court for resentencing, holding that Defendant’s sentence violated the proportionality requirement inherent in article 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. View "Commonwealth v. Lutskov" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court held that its decision in Commonwealth v. Perez, 477 Mass. 677 (2017) (Perez I), requires sentencing judges to follow an individualized process that allows for the consideration of mitigating circumstances related to the juvenile's age and youthful characteristics before imposing a sentence with a longer period of incarceration prior to eligibility for parole than that applicable to a juvenile convicted of murder. In Perez I, the Supreme Judicial Court determined that Defendant, a juvenile, received a sentence for his nonhomicide offenses that was presumptively disproportionate under article 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights because the time he would serve prior to parole eligibility exceeded that applicable to a juvenile convicted of murder. On remand, a superior court judge held a hearing to determine whether, in light of the factors articulated in Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460, 477-478 (2012), the case presented extraordinary circumstances justifying a longer parole eligibility period. The judge then concluded that extraordinary circumstances were present and denied Defendant’s motion for resentencing. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order and remanded for resentencing, holding that the hearing judge erred in finding extraordinary circumstances in this case. View "Commonwealth v. Perez" on Justia Law

by
In 1988, when he was 17 years old, Palmer pled guilty to kidnapping for robbery. Sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, Palmer has appeared before the Board of Parole Hearings 10 times, without success. In 2015, the Board deferred Palmer’s next hearing for five years. Palmer requested reconsideration, arguing that the Board had wrongfully refused to set his base term and an adjusted base term and failed to give “great weight” to the statutory youth offender factors: “the diminished culpability of youth as compared to that of adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity,” Pen. Code 3051(f)(1), 4801(c). The Board denied Palmer’s request, stating that appropriate weight had been given to the youth offender factors and that it would address the base term issue. No response was forthcoming. The court of appeal issued an order; the Board calculated Palmer’s base and adjusted base terms. In the meantime, the California Supreme Court relieved the Board of its obligations to calculate base terms and adjusted base terms and vacated the court of appeal’s determination with respect to Palmer. The court of appeal then held that Palmer is entitled to a new hearing due to the Board's failure to comply with a statutory mandate to give “great weight” to factors related to Palmer having been a minor when he committed his crime. View "In re Palmer" on Justia Law

by
The subject of four 2014 juvenile petitions, G.C., claimed that the juvenile court erroneously failed to expressly declare her three 2014 Vehicle Code section 10851 violations for driving or taking a vehicle to be either felonies or misdemeanors. The dispositional order for the three 2014 section 10851 offenses was entered on November 19, 2015. G.C.’s notice of appeal was filed on February 1, 2016. The court of appeal dismissed that notice of appeal as untimely. G.C. raised no issues as to any other orders. The court published its opinion to express disagreement with the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s decision in In re Ramon M. which held that a failure to make an express declaration may be challenged in an appeal from a subsequent dispositional order. “The California Supreme Court has “steadfastly adhered to the fundamental precept that the timely filing of an appropriate notice of appeal or its legal equivalent is an absolute prerequisite to the exercise of appellate jurisdiction.” View "In re G.C." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the determination of the trial court finding that R.R., a juvenile, violated his probation and adjudicating him a delinquent for auto theft and false informing, holding that the trial court violated R.R.’s right to be present at the fact-finding hearing by holding hearing in R.R.’s absence. On appeal, R.R. argued that juveniles have a due process right to be present at fact-finding hearings on a delinquency charge and that the trial court violated this right by holding the hearing in his absence. The Supreme Court assumed without deciding that juveniles are entitled to be present at fact-finding hearings and held (1) a juvenile can waive his right to be present at a fact-finding hearing but must do so according to the juvenile waiver-of-rights statute; (2) there was no waiver of R.R.’s right to be present, and therefore, the trial court violated that right by holding the fact-finding hearing in R.R.’s absence; and (3) the absurdity doctrine did not apply to this case. View "R.R. v. State" on Justia Law

by
In 2017, the Public Guardian sought to establish a conservatorship of the person for Minor, age 16, who was admitted to John Muir Behavioral Health Center. Minor had been placed in the care of Alameda County’s Child Protective Services (CPS) over a year earlier and suffered multiple involuntary hospitalizations. She presented at John Muir “with suicidal ideation and poor impulse control.” The court appointed the Public Guardian as Minor’s temporary conservator. Trial testimony indicated that Minor suffered from PTSD, heard voices telling her she had no reason to live, had threatened to smother her roommate, engaged in “superficial self-injury,” and missed a lot of school. The court of appeal affirmed the order appointing the Public Guardian as the conservator of her person under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, Welf. & Inst. Code, 5000, rejecting arguments that the conservatorship investigator failed to conduct an investigation of all available alternatives to conservatorship; that the Public Guardian failed to prove she was gravely disabled; and that there was insufficient evidence to support her placement. There was sufficient evidence to support a finding of “grave disability” and that the placement was not more restrictive than necessary. View "Conservatorship of M.B." on Justia Law

by
D.D.B., then under 18 years of age, with an adult accomplice robbed a pharmacy and was charged with acts of juvenile delinquency that, if committed by an adult, would be robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), and carrying, using, and brandishing a firearm during a robbery, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). Transfer to adult proceedings is mandatory if the juvenile committed the underlying act after his sixteenth birthday; the charged offense is a felony that “has as an element thereof the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another”; and the juvenile has previously been found guilty of a crime that “has as an element thereof the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another,” 18 U.S.C. 5032. The government alleged that D.D.B. had convictions for Indiana attempted robbery and burglary, Class B felonies, and for conspiracy to commit robbery. The district court addressed only the attempted robbery offense and concluded that it required transfer. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The court erred by assuming that any attempted violent felony is itself a violent felony and failed to consider the lack of an intent requirement in Indiana’s crime of attempted robbery. No finder-of-fact found that D.D.B. had an intent to use, attempt to use, or threatened the use of physical force against a person. On remand, the government may raise the other predicate crimes of burglary and conspiracy to commit robbery. View "United States v. D. D. B." on Justia Law

by
Defendant Richard Carter claimed cruel and unusual punishment in his sentence of 55 years to life in prison for a second-degree murder he committed at age 17, with personal use and discharge of a firearm causing death, possession of a firearm by a felon, and a prior strike conviction for robbery. The Attorney General acknowledged this sentence was the functional equivalent of a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole (LWOP). To address defendant’s cruel and unusual punishment claim in the trial court, the trial court considered defendant’s youth in the context of considering whether to strike the prior conviction for purposes of three-strikes sentencing in furtherance of the interests of justice under Penal Code section 1385 and California v. Superior Court, 13 Cal.4th 497 (1996). This would have reduced the sentence to 40 years to life in prison. The trial court considered defendant’s youth but declined to strike the prior conviction, finding that although defendant was able to change, he was unwilling to do so. While this case was pending on appeal, the California Supreme Court held that a statute giving trial courts discretion to impose a sentence less than LWOP on a juvenile who commits special circumstance murder (Penal Code section 190.5) must be construed without a presumption in favor of LWOP (as previously construed by case law), in order that the statute not violate the Eighth Amendment. Other recent changes in law demand that the Court of Appeal not only vacate the sentence, but also conditionally reverse the conviction and remand to the trial court with directions to transfer the case to the juvenile court for a transfer hearing to determine the propriety of prosecution in adult criminal court had the case originally been filed in juvenile court. The Court so vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Carter" on Justia Law

by
Nineteen-year-old M.W. was a nonminor dependent of the court until it terminated dependency jurisdiction over him in August 2017. One of the acceptable living arrangements for nonminor dependents was a “‘[s]upervised independent living placement’” (SILP). The court terminated dependency jurisdiction over M.W. because he had moved in with a former foster mother, and the court believed a former caregiver’s home could not qualify as a SILP. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court erred: "Nothing in the law disqualifies a former caregiver’s home as a SILP. Even the document on which plaintiff and respondent, San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS), relied for its argument—a form developed by the California Department of Social Services—does not disqualify a former caregiver’s home." The Court determined the error was prejudicial to M.W. and therefore reversed and remanded for the trial court to consider whether to retain or terminate dependency jurisdiction. View "In re M.W." on Justia Law