Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Defendant Joseph Jackson sought a youth offender parole hearing under California Penal Code section 3051 as a result of his conviction in 1998 that included two counts of first degree murder with multiple special circumstances, which counts resulted in a sentence of two consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). Defendant was 19 years old when he committed the homicides. In his October 2019 motion, defendant argued section 3051 violated his equal protection rights because he allegedly “is entitled to the same protections as any other person who violated the law at the same age whether it was murder without special circumstances, robbery, kidnapping or any other crime.” The trial court denied the motion, finding that defendant was statutorily ineligible for relief and that there was a rational basis for carving out from section 3051 offenders such as defendant who are convicted of first degree special circumstance murder and sentenced to LWOP. On appeal, defendant reasserted section 3051’s exclusion of persons over 18 years of age with LWOP sentences from its parole hearing provisions violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The Court of Appeal independently concluded the carve out to section 3051 for offenders such as defendant serving a LWOP sentence for special circumstance murder was not an equal protection violation. View "California v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant D.C. (minor) appealed a court order sustaining the State's petition made pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 602. The petition alleged minor carried a concealed dirk or dagger on his person in violation of Penal Code section 21310. Minor argued, and the State conceded, reversal was called for because the juvenile court erred when it found the human trafficking affirmative defense set forth in Penal Code section 236.23 did not apply in his case. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed the juvenile court erred, but declined the parties’ invitation to find the requirements of the defense were met. The Court reversed and ordered a new hearing on the applicability of Penal Code section 236.23. View "In re D.C." on Justia Law

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At 21 years old, appellant Joshua Acosta, who was diagnosed with a form of high-functioning autism spectrum disorder, plotted with his codefendant, to kill their friend Katlynn’s parents, whom Acosta believed was physically and sexually abusing her. Acosta shot and killed Katlynn’s parents and a family friend who was at their house. A jury convicted Acosta of three counts of first degree murder and found true the multiple murder special circumstance and firearm enhancements. The trial court sentenced him to three consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP), plus an additional 75 years to life in prison. On appeal, Acosta claimed his LWOP sentences were unconstitutional and had to be modified to allow for future parole consideration. Much of his challenge related to California Penal Code section 3051, which granted the right to a youth offender parole hearing to juvenile offenders sentenced to LWOP, and to juvenile and young adult offenders sentenced to indeterminate or life terms, no matter how lengthy. According to Acosta, section 3051 violated equal protection because it denied young adult offenders sentenced to LWOP the right to a youth offender parole hearing. Acosta further contended his LWOP sentences violated the Eighth Amendment. The Court of Appeal rejected these contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "California v. Acosta" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of defendant's request to have his case transferred to juvenile court pursuant to the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 (Proposition 57) and Senate Bill No. 1391. Proposition 57 eliminated the ability of prosecutors to file charges against juveniles directly in a court of criminal jurisdiction.The court explained that SB 1391 effectively broadens the ameliorative benefit of Proposition 57 to 14 and 15 year olds by prohibiting prosecuting attorneys from moving to transfer individuals who commit certain offenses when they were 14 or 15 years old to adult court, unless they were "not apprehended prior to the end of juvenile court jurisdiction." Therefore, SB 1391 applies retroactively to defendants whose judgments are not yet final. The court explained that the fact that defendant is now over 25 years old does not change the court's conclusion that he is entitled to the retroactive benefit of Welfare and Institutions section 707, subdivision (a)(2), if his conviction was not final when SB 1391 was enacted. In this case, defendant was apprehended when he was still 15 years old and therefore section 707, subdivision (a)(2)'s exclusion, by its plain terms, does not apply to him. Furthermore, because a resentencing under section 1170, subdivision (d)(1) replaces the original sentence, the original sentence is no longer operative, and the finality of the original sentence is no longer material. The court remanded to the trial court with directions for the matter to be transferred to the juvenile court for a juvenile adjudication. View "People v. Hwang" on Justia Law

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Defendant, when he was 18 years old, stabbed and killed a 15-year-old boy while trying to take his backpack and bag containing football gear. Defendant was convicted of 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. The trial court sentenced defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus one year for using a deadly or dangerous weapon.The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's sentence, concluding that the felony murder special circumstance statute is not unconstitutionally vague as applied to defendant. In this case, defendant had notice of the conduct proscribed by section 190.2 and does not claim discriminatory prosecution. The court also concluded 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. View "People v. Montelongo" on Justia Law

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A defendant who was sentenced to 66 years to life for violent sex offenses he committed at age 17 is not entitled to youth offender parole consideration under Penal Code section 3051 on federal and California constitutional equal protection grounds.The Court of Appeal found that a rational basis exists for treating one strike offenders such as defendant differently from other youthful offenders entitled to the benefit of the statute, applying the reasoning and analysis of the court in People v. Williams (2020) 47 Cal.App.5th 475, review granted July 22, 2020, S262229. In this case, defendant was convicted of four counts of forcible rape, one count of forcible oral copulation, and one count of first degree robbery. The court explained that defendant is not similarly situated to those who do not commit violent sex crimes, and his exclusion from youth offender parole consideration is rationally related to a legitimate penal interest. View "People v. Moseley" on Justia Law

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Defendants Harquan Johnson and KeAndre Windfield were each convicted of one count of murder and one count of attempted murder, and assault with a semi-automatic firearm, along with gun discharge and gang enhancement allegations as to the murder and attempted murder counts. The charges arose from the shooting of two members of their own gang, the Ramona Blocc Hustlas, resulting in the death of one of them. Both defendants were sentenced to prison for 90 years to life. They appealed raising various claims. In the original opinion, filed August 2014, the Court of Appeal affirmed both defendants' convictions, but reversed Johnson’s sentence pursuant to California v. Gutierrez, 58 Cal.4th 1354 (2014), because, as a juvenile at the time of the crime, his sentence of 90 years to life was the functional equivalent of a term of life without possibility of parole and we directed other modifications of the sentence and abstracts of judgment. In November 2014, the California Supreme Court denied both defendants’ petitions for review, but, on its own motion, issued a grant-and-hold of review as to defendant Johnson, for consideration pending review in In re Alatriste, S214652, In re Bonilla, S214960, and California v. Franklin, S217699. In May 2016, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Franklin (63 Cal.4th 261 (2016)), and retransferred his case to the Court of Appeal with directions reconsider Johnson’s sentence. The appellate court issued a second opinion in September 2016, affirming those portions of the original opinion pertaining to issues not subject to the grant and hold, and reconsidered Johnson's sentence. Defendants again successfully petitioned for review; the Supreme Court retransferred the cases to the Court of Appeal with directions to reconsider the case in light of California v Canizales, 7 Cal.5th 591 (2019), and California v. Perez, 3 Cal.App.5th 612 (2016). Judgment was modified per direction, and defendants again appealed. In April 2020, the Supreme Court again transferred this matter to the appellate court to reconsider in light of Senate Bill 620 (Stats. 2017, ch. 682). After reconsideration, the Court of Appeal affirmed both defendants' convictions. As to Windfield, a hearing was warranted for both defendant and the State to make an accurate record of defendant’s characteristics and circumstances at the time of the offense, and to amend his abstract of judgment fix a date error. As to Johnson, the case was remanded for the limited purpose of a fitness hearing: if not fit, Johnson's convictions were to be reinstated; if the juvenile court found it would not have transferred Johnson to be tried as an adult, it should treat his convictions as juvenile adjudications and impose an appropriate "disposition" within its discretion. In addition, the court could exercise its discretion whether to strike or dismiss any of the firearm enhancements within the meaning of Senate Bill No. 620. View "California v. Windfield" on Justia Law

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E.P., a minor in a juvenile delinquency proceeding, challenged a July 2020, decision by respondent Yolo County Superior Court, which denied his motion to physically appear in juvenile court in the presence of the judge at court hearings. Petitioner claimed the court’s decision, as well as certain temporary local rules (Super. Ct. Yolo County, Temporary COVID-19 Local Rules) issued by the court in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicted with Welfare and Institutions Code section 679 and the emergency rules related to COVID-19 adopted by the Judicial Council and contained in appendix I of the California Rules of Court. The Court of Appeal concluded that, consistent with section 679 and the case law interpreting it, the emergency rules required a court obtain a minor’s consent before conducting a hearing in a juvenile delinquency proceeding remotely. Accordingly, the respondent superior court erred in denying petitioner’s motion to physically appear in court at his juvenile hearings. To the extent the court’s temporary local rules required all hearings in juvenile delinquency proceedings be conducted remotely absent a finding of good cause, the rules were in conflict with both section 679 and the emergency rules. View "E.P. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the trial court's decision sustaining a petition for first degree burglary with a person present, contending that the trial court erred in denying his Brady/Johnson motion for an in camera review and discovery of the arresting officer's confidential personnel file. In People v. Galan (2009) 178 Cal.App.4th 6, the Court of Appeal upheld the denial of a motion to inspect the confidential personnel file of a police officer.The court held that there, as here, there was no good cause for discovery. In this case, defendant cites no authority, and the court has found none, that a Brady/Johnson motion may be used as a fishing expedition to disclose confidential personnel files that have no logical link to the 911 call, the arrest, the charges, a defense, or the impeachment of a witness. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "People v. M.C." on Justia Law

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Based on a Welfare and Institutions Code section 300(b)(1) petition, A.G, then four years old, was placed into protective custody after his mother, S.B., twice drove a car in which A.G. was a passenger while she was under the influence. Mother's reunification services were terminated at the 12-month review hearing. At a selection and implementation hearing, S.G. requested a contested hearing on statutory exceptions to adoption and the termination of parental rights: the beneficial parental relationship and the sibling relationship. The court found her offer of proof insufficient, denied her request for a contested hearing, found the minor adoptable, and terminated S.G.'s parental rights.The court of appeal reversed the denial of a contested hearing. The offer of proof must address two components of the parental relationship exception: the parent’s regular contact with the child and the existence of a beneficial parent-child relationship. It need not address whether the existence of that relationship constitutes a compelling reason for determining that termination would be detrimental to the child. S.G.'s offer of proof was adequate, addressing both her regular contact with A.G. and the existence of a beneficial parent-child relationship. Because the termination of parental rights is at stake, the court, particularly where the parent’s regular contact with the child is not in dispute, should exercise caution before denying a contested hearing and should construe the parent’s offer of proof liberally. View "In re A.G." on Justia Law