Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

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In 2014, a jury convicted Lizarraga of second-degree murder and found that he personally used a firearm in connection with the shooting of a rival gang member. Lizarraga was 17 years old when he committed the crime. He was sentenced to 40 years to life in state prison. After his first appeal, Lizarraga filed a “Franklin” habeas corpus petition, requesting an opportunity to make a record relevant to his eventual youth offender parole hearing. The court granted the petition and set a hearing date. Lizarraga next moved for a transfer hearing in juvenile court under the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 (Proposition 57). The trial court denied the motion.The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that Lizarraga’s case was final when he requested the transfer hearing. Proposition 57 does not apply to final judgments. The Franklin hearing aside, Lizarraga’s case was final in June 2016, upon expiration of the time to seek U.S. Supreme Court review. The court rejected an argument that whenever a Franklin hearing is scheduled, finality is undone and all intervening changes in the law are in play. Lizarraga’s equal protection challenge is without merit. No “equal protection violation aris[es] from the timing of the effective date of a statute lessening the punishment for a particular offense.” View "People v. Lizarraga" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Lusby was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and home invasion and sentenced to 130 years’ imprisonment. Though he was 23 years old at the time of the trial, he was only 16 years old at the time of the offenses. After an unsuccessful direct appeal and post-conviction proceedings, he sought leave to file a successive post-conviction petition, asserting that his sentencing hearing was constitutionally inadequate under the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision, Miller v. Alabama. The Will County Circuit Court denied that motion. The appellate court reversed.The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court’s decision, denying relief. Lusby failed to show cause and prejudice such that the trial court should have granted leave to file a successive post-conviction petition. Lusby had every opportunity to present mitigating evidence but chose not to offer any. The trial court considered his youth and its attendant characteristics before concluding that his future should be spent in prison. The de facto discretionary life sentence passes constitutional muster under Miller; Lusby has not shown prejudice under 725 ILCS 5/122-1(a)(1). Miller does not require a court to use “magic words” before sentencing a juvenile defendant to life imprisonment but only requires consideration of “youth-related factors.” View "People v. Lusby" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's sentence of life without the possibility of parole plus one year for robbery and felony murder with a special circumstance finding under Penal Code section 190.2, subdivision (a)(17), which mandates a sentence of death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Defendant was 18 years old at the time that he stabbed and killed a 15 year old boy.The court held that the felony murder special circumstance statute is not unconstitutionally vague as applied to defendant where the trial court instructed the jury on the independent felonious purpose rule, and defendant had notice of the conduct proscribed by section 190.2 and does not claim discriminatory prosecution. The court explained that the fact that the prosecutor had discretion to charge defendant under two statutes with different penalties does not render the statutory scheme unconstitutional. The court also held that defendant's sentence is not cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment; defendant forfeited his right to challenge the restitution fine and assessments; and the trial court's sentencing minute order and the abstract of judgment must be corrected because the trial court erred in imposing a parole revocation fine. View "People v. Montelongo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that consecutive sentences imposed for separate crimes, when the cumulative sentences exceed a juvenile's life expectancy, do not violate the Eighth Amendment, as interpreted in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016).Defendants in these cases argued that their sentences violated the Eighth Amendment. At issue was whether Graham, Miller, and Montgomery prohibit aggregated consecutive sentences for separate crimes that exceed a juvenile's life expectancy. The Supreme Court held that Graham, Miller, and Montgomery do not prohibit such de facto life sentences, and therefore, Graham and its progeny do not constitute a significant chance in the law under Ariz. R. Crim. P. 32.1(g). View "State v. Soto-Fong" on Justia Law

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Juvenile A.P. appealed an adjudication of delinquency based on “open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior” under 13 V.S.A. section 2601. Juvenile argued: (1) the evidence did not support a finding that his conduct was open or gross; (2) section 2601 was ambiguous and therefore unenforceable against him; and (3) section 2601 was unconstitutionally vague. The incident giving rise to the adjudication at issue here dated back to 2018, when Juvenile approached the complainant in the hallway of school. Complainant testified: “[A]ll of a sudden, he asked if he could touch my breasts, and then he just reached out, and his hand was on me.” No one else was present, although school was in session. When juvenile touched complainant’s breast with his hand, she turned around and ran. She was furious and upset. Juvenile testified that he reached out his hand toward complainant’s chest but never touched it. He testified that he regretted disregarding complainant’s feelings and felt his actions were “disgusting.” The family court found complainant to be credible. It concluded that juvenile had touched her breast and in doing so had committed a delinquent act. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the court’s findings were supported by the record. The Court further concluded the statute unambiguously proscribes the type of conduct at issue here, and accordingly affirmed the judgment. View "In re A.P., Juvenile" on Justia Law

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David Blue was convicted of capital murder when the only sentences for that crime were death or life imprisonment. Blue was sentenced to death, and his death sentence was subsequently found unconstitutional because he was both intellectually disabled and a minor when he committed the crime. The trial court sentenced Blue to life without parole, and he requested a "Miller" hearing to determine whether that new sentence was appropriate. While his petition for post-conviction relief was pending before the trial court, the Mississippi Supreme Court found Section 99-19-107 inapplicable to individuals for whom the death penalty was found unconstitutional. The trial court ordered a mental evaluation to help with a Miller determination regarding whether to sentence Blue to life or life without the possibility of parole. Blue filed an interlocutory appeal with the Supreme Court, arguing that a mental evaluation and hearing were unnecessary, because only one constitutional sentence was available: life imprisonment. The State argued that life without parole was a sentencing option because the statutory amendments that added life without parole as a sentencing option for capital murder applied to Blue. Because applying life without parole as a sentencing option to Blue would violate the prohibition against ex post facto laws, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded the case with instructions to sentence Blue to life imprisonment. View "Blue v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Layton Lester was convicted of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Lorrine Bozeman. Bozeman, who lived in a house with her mother and who was fifteen-year-old Lester’s great aunt, received a large amount of cash that she was planning to use to buy a piece of property. On the evening of April 29, 2007, Lester was at co-indictee Shurrod Rich’s house. Rich’s brother was present and heard Lester suggest to Rich that they “go rob” Bozeman, telling Rich that they could get $5,000 from the robbery. Between 10:00 and 10:30 p.m. on the same evening, Bozeman’s front door was kicked in and she was shot twice. Bozeman’s sister, Vernel Clay, who lived several houses away, heard the gunshots and saw two people running through her backyard afterwards. When Rich and Lester returned to Rich’s house, Rich’s brother observed that Lester had changed into black clothes, was breathing hard, was nervous, and later had cash to spend for food. Rich and Lester told Sean Ross, a friend of theirs who lived in the area, that they had robbed and shot Bozeman and that she had screamed. After Lester’s mother overheard Lester talking on the phone and noticed that he was acting nervous and scared, she grew concerned and approached law enforcement. The jury would find Lester guilty on all counts, and he was ultimately sentenced to life in prison for malice murder, a concurrent term of 20 years for armed robbery, and terms of 20 years for burglary to run consecutively to the murder sentence and 5 years for the firearm count to run consecutively to the burglary sentence. The felony-murder counts were vacated by operation of law. On appeal, Lester contends that the trial court erred in admitting statements he made to law enforcement after Bozeman’s death and in denying his “motion for mistrial” arising from the presence of an alternate juror during jury deliberations. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Lester v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Ernie Perez pled guilty in 2005 to two aggravated murders that he had committed at the age of fourteen. In 2016, he filed a petition for post-conviction relief raising constitutional claims premised on the Oregon Supreme Court’s interpretation of ORS 419C.349, a statute governing when a juvenile defendant could be waived into adult court, in Oregon v. J. C. N.-V., 380 P3d 248 (2016). The post-conviction court concluded that petitioner’s claims were barred by the claim preclusion rule in ORS 138.550(3) because petitioner could reasonably have raised those claims in an earlier petition that he had filed in 2008. For similar reasons, the post-conviction court held that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations set out in ORS 138.510(3). The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court granted certiorari review to address petitioner's argument that his claims could not reasonably have been raised prior to J. C. N.-V., thereby allowing him to escape the statute of limitations in ORS 138.510(3). The Supreme Court determined petitioner’s claims were indeed barred by ORS 138.550(3) because he failed to show that he could not reasonably have raised those claims at the time of his 2008 petition. The Court therefore affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the post-conviction court. View "Perez v. Cain" on Justia Law

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Antavian Love was convicted of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Enrique Trejo. On appeal, Love, who was 16 years old at the time the crimes were committed, argued the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress his statements to law enforcement and in sentencing him as a juvenile to serve life without parole. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed his convictions. View "Love v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Six years after defendant received a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for crimes he committed when he was 17 years old, he moved to vacate his sentence in light of the Supreme Court’s intervening decisions in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016). The district court resentenced defendant to life imprisonment without parole after concluding that he presents "one of those uncommon cases where sentencing a juvenile to the hardest possible penalty is appropriate."The Fourth Circuit affirmed and held that, even assuming the district court plainly erred in not vacating defendant's witness tampering by murder conviction, he has not shown that the error affected his substantial rights. The court also held that defendant's sentence of life imprisonment without parole is procedurally reasonable where the district court conducted a thorough resentencing and did not abuse its discretion in its consideration of defendant's age at the time of the offense or his postconviction diagnosis and conduct. Furthermore, the district court amply explained why it concluded that "the harshest possible penalty"—life imprisonment without parole—was appropriate. Finally, the court held that defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that defendant's crimes, committed when he was 7-and-a-half months shy of his 18th birthday, reflected irreparable corruption rather than "the transient immaturity of youth." View "United States v. McCain" on Justia Law