Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the juvenile court to transfer Appellant to adult court, holding that that court's decision to transfer Appellant to adult court was not supported by a preponderance of the evidence and that the juvenile court abused its discretion by relinquishing jurisdiction.After the juvenile court transferred jurisdiction over Appellant to the general division a jury found Appellant guilty of aggravated murder and murder for a killing that occurred when he was fourteen years old. The court of appeals affirmed the conviction, concluding that the juvenile court did not violate Appellant's constitutional right to due process by transferring his case to the adult court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the standard of proof applicable to discretionary-bindover proceedings is a preponderance of the evidence, and the state need not produce affirmative evidence of nonamenability; (2) a juvenile court need not consider all potential juvenile dispositions when balancing the factors weighing in favor of and against transfer; and (3) the juvenile court improperly relinquished jurisdiction in this case. View "State v. Nicholas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and sentence of the district court in this criminal case, holding that the district court adequately considered evidence of Defendant's post-offense rehabilitation under Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and imposed a constitutional sentence by striking a parole restriction.When he was seventeen years old, Defendant was charged with burglary and three counts of deliberate homicide. Defendant was convicted of all counts and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without parole. Defendant later filed a successful postconviction petition seeking resentencing under Miller. After a resentencing hearing, the district court sentenced Defendant to three consecutive life terms at MSP without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court remanded the case. On remand, the district court resentenced him to three life sentences and did not restrict Defendant's eligibility for parole. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court complied with the Court's instructions on remand in Keefe II and imposed a legal sentence. View "Keefe v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court finding that Juvenile committed acts that would constituted first-degree statutory sodomy if committed by an adult, holding that the circuit court erroneously declared and applied the law in admitting two-way video testimony, in violation of Juvenile's right to confrontation.Prior to his adjudication hearing, Juvenile filed an objection to a virtual adjudication and request to appear in person, arguing that he had a constitutional and statutory right to face-to-face confrontation of witnesses against him. The objection was overruled, and the court held the hearing in a "hybrid" format that utilized videoconferencing technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the hearing, the circuit court sustained the allegation of first-degree statutory sodomy beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the circuit court's general statements concerning COVID-19 did not satisfy the requisite standard for admitting two-way video testimony, in violation of Juvenile's confrontation rights. View "In re C.A.R.A." on Justia Law

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Jones was a juvenile in 2000 when he pled guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 50 years in prison pursuant to a fully negotiated plea agreement. After unsuccessfully petitioning for postconviction relief, Jones sought leave to file a successive postconviction petition alleging his sentence violated the eighth amendment protections in the Supreme Court’s “Miller v. Alabama” decision.The appellate court affirmed the denial of his motion, finding that Jones’ claims did not invoke the protections provided to juveniles in Miller. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Miller’s additional protections for juvenile offenders apply only when a trial court lacks or refuses to use discretion in sentencing a juvenile offender to life, or to a de facto life, sentence. The mandatory sentencing scheme that applied in Illinois at the time he was sentenced was never applied to Jones. By entering a plea agreement, a defendant forecloses any claim of error. A voluntary guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional errors or irregularities, including constitutional ones. Jones has not claimed that the state engaged in any misrepresentation or committed any misconduct. View "People v. Jones" on Justia Law

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A wardship petition charged Y.C., then 17 years old, with assault with a firearm, carrying a loaded firearm, and possession of a firearm by a minor. Y.C. allegedly shot a suspected rival gang member in the leg. Arrested, Y.C. was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center, where he met with a probation officer and invoked his Miranda rights. Y.C. agreed to participate in a mental health assessment conducted by a family therapist, pursuant to an established protocol of the Juvenile Services Division of the San Mateo County Probation Department. The therapist provided a summary of her interview to the probation department, which included the summary in a report provided to the juvenile court at Y.C.’s detention hearings.The court of appeal dismissed Y.C.’s writ petition as moot to the extent that it sought relief relating to his detention During the pendency of the proceeding, Y.C. entered a change of plea and was released from detention. The court otherwise denied the petition, rejecting arguments that the disclosure of the assessment interview to the probation department and juvenile court, and its use at his detention hearings, violated his constitutional right against self-incrimination and his right to counsel, as well as HIPAA and California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act. View "Y.C. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Sands was 24 years old when he committed special circumstance murder (Penal Code 187, 190.2(a)(10)) and was sentenced to a prison term of life without the possibility of parole. The trial court denied his motion, seeking to develop a record of mitigating circumstances for an eventual youth offender parole hearing under “Franklin.”The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting his Equal Protection argument. The statute provides an opportunity for release (via youth offender parole hearings) to most persons convicted of crimes committed before the age of 26 in their 15th, 20th, or 25th year of incarceration, depending on the sentence imposed for their “[c]ontrolling offense,” sections 3051(a)(2)(B), (b)(1)-(4). The statute excludes offenders who were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed at age 18-25. The Legislature had a rational basis to distinguish between offenders with the same sentence (life without parole) based on their age. For juvenile offenders, such a sentence may violate the Eighth Amendment but the same sentence does not violate the Eighth Amendment when imposed on an adult, even an adult under the age of 26. The Legislature could rationally decide to remedy unconstitutional sentences but go no further. View "People v. Sands" on Justia Law

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In an action arising from a constitutional challenge to Missouri's remedial parole review process for individuals sentenced to mandatory life without the possibility of parole for homicide offenses committed as juveniles, a class of Missouri inmates who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole for such juvenile homicide offenses filed suit claiming that Missouri's parole review policies and practices violate their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and their rights to due process of law under the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that Missouri's policies and practices, when implemented and considered in combination, worked to deprive plaintiffs of their Eighth Amendment right to a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based upon demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. The court explained that, because the parole review process in place under Senate Bill 590 failed to adequately ensure that juveniles whose crimes reflect only transient immaturity—and who have since matured—will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence, it violated the Eighth Amendment.The court affirmed the order of the district court determining that the parole review process of SB 590 violated plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment rights, and affirmed the order determining that Missouri cannot use a risk assessment tool in its revised parole proceedings unless it has been developed to address the unique circumstances of the JLWOP Class. The court vacated the order regarding appointment of counsel and remanded for further proceedings. Finally, the court denied plaintiffs' motion to strike. View "Brown v. Precythe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals finding that lifetime registration requirements under the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA), Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-4906(c), were not punishment as applied N.R. and therefore did not trigger any constitutional provisions identified by N.R., holding that there was no error.N.R. pled guilty to rape and was adjudicated a juvenile offender. The gestate judge ordered N.R. to register as a sex offender for five years under KORA. Just before N.R.'s registration period was about to expire, the legislature amended KORA. As a result, N.R. was required to register for life. Later, the State charged N.R. for failing to register. N.R. filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that KORA's mandatory lifetime registration requirements for juvenile sex offenders violates the federal and state constitutional provisions against cruel and unusual punishment and the federal constitutional provision against ex post facto punishment. The district court found Defendant guilty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that KORA's mandatory lifetime registration requirements as applied to N.R. are not punishment and therefore do not violate the federal Ex Post Facto Clause or the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment under the Kansas and United States Constitutions. View "State v. N.R." on Justia Law

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In 1996, Dorsey (age 14) kicked open a door to a Chicago takeout restaurant and began firing a gun at customers, killing a 16-year-old and severely injuring 13-year-old Williams and 16-year-old Sims. At the hospital, Williams told police that Dorsey, whom she knew from school, was the shooter. The juvenile court allowed Dorsey’s prosecution to proceed in adult criminal court. Dorsey was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. A presentence report detailed Dorsey’s troubled home life, gang involvement, and previous encounters with the law. While awaiting trial, Dorsey obtained an eleventh-grade education with “very good grades.” The court heard extensive evidence in aggravation and in mitigation then sentenced Dorsey to consecutive terms, resulting in an aggregate sentence of 76 years’ imprisonment.In 2014, Dorsey sought leave to file a successive petition for postconviction relief, arguing that his aggregate sentence violated the Eighth Amendment and the Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama holding, which forbids “a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.” He argued that, although his sentence is not technically a natural life sentence, such a lengthy sentence imposed on a juvenile is sufficient to trigger Miller-type protections.The Illinois Supreme Court held that good-conduct credit is relevant and that a sentence imposed pursuant to a statutory scheme that affords a juvenile an opportunity to be released from prison after serving 40 years or less of the term imposed does not constitute a de facto life sentence. View "People v. Dorsey" on Justia Law

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A juvenile wardship petition (Welfare and Institutions Code section 602(a)) alleged that Matthew had committed assault with a deadly weapon and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury; that Matthew had personally inflicted great bodily injury on the victim and had caused the victim to suffer great bodily injury resulting in paralysis and had personally used a deadly weapon, a knife. The juvenile court found true all of the allegations except for the paralysis enhancement; dismissed count two and the accompanying enhancement, at the request of the prosecutor; declared Matthew a ward of the court; and placed Matthew on probation with conditions.The court of appeal reversed, finding that Matthew’s pre-arrest statements to police were made during a custodial interrogation without the required Miranda warnings and that the admission of those statements was prejudicial. While Matthew was told at the start of the interrogation that he was not under arrest, and the police officers who were present did not handcuff him or unholster their weapons, the interview was initiated by police, who had just heard from another that Matthew had stabbed the victim. The entire interrogation was an attempt to get Matthew to admit that he stabbed the victim and to provide additional incriminating information. View "In re Matthew W." on Justia Law