Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
by
On March 25, 2013, the 18-year-old defendant Clifford Williams shot and killed 15-year-old Ralphmon Green in the 2100 block of Allen Street in New Orleans. The victim was struck by bullets four times and defendant continued to fire at him after he fell to the ground. Eight shell casings found at the crime scene matched a semiautomatic handgun that was later found at defendant’s residence. Several eyewitnesses to the shooting testified that the victim was unarmed. Before trial, the defense was prohibited from introducing evidence of the victim’s juvenile arrest for illegal carrying of a weapon. At trial, the defense unsuccessfully attempted to introduce other evidence of the victim’s character. Specifically, the defense sought to introduce a photograph that depicted the victim holding a gun, evidence that the victim had threatened defendant on social media, and testimony of a witness that the victim had previously threatened defendant. In rejecting defendant’s claim on appeal that the district court erred in excluding this evidence, the court of appeal found that defendant failed to introduce appreciable evidence of a hostile demonstration or overt act on the part of the victim at the time of the offense charged, as required by La.C.E. art. 404(A)(2)(a). Defendant contended the court of appeal erred because testimony of an eyewitness constituted appreciable evidence of an overt act by the victim, and the district court overstepped its bounds in evaluating the credibility of that witness to find the evidence was not appreciable because the witness was not credible. To this point, the Louisiana Supreme Court agreed. However, the Court found the evidence was otherwise inadmissible, and therefore affirmed the conviction and sentence. View "Louisiana v. Williams" on Justia Law

by
Louisiana charged D.T. with aggravated battery committed with a firearm, and sought to divest the juvenile court of jurisdiction and to prosecute D.T. as an adult pursuant to Louisiana Children’s Code Article 305(B)(2)(j). In response, D.T. filed a motion with the juvenile court to declare La. Ch.C. art. 305(B)(2)(j) unconstitutional. The juvenile court granted D.T.’s motion. On the state's application to the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Supreme Court concurred with the trial court that La. Ch.C. art. 305(B)(2)(j) was indeed unconstitutional, concluding the legislature exceeded its constitutional authority in creating an exception allowing divesture of juvenile court jurisdiction for a child charged with aggravated battery committed with a firearm, where that charge is not among the crimes enumerated in La. Const. art. V, sec. 19. View "Louisiana in the interest of D.T." on Justia Law

by
Defendant Hunter Fussell was indicted for a first degree rape of a victim under the age of thirteen that he was alleged to have committed on or shortly after his fifteenth birthday. Defendant filed motions contending that the automatic transfer provision of Article 305(A) violated several constitutional provisions, both state and federal, as well as evolving United States Supreme Court jurisprudence recognizing the special characteristics of juveniles that could affect their capabilities and culpability. In response, the district court ultimately ruled that this automatic transfer provision violates due process and that a transfer hearing, comparable to the one provided in Children’s Code art. 862,1 was constitutionally required before a juvenile could be transferred to a district court exercising criminal jurisdiction. The party challenging the constitutionality of a statute bears a heavy burden in proving that statute unconstitutional. The Louisiana Supreme Court determined defendant failed to carry the burden of showing Article 305(A) was unconstitutional. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the district court's ruling, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Louisiana vs. Fussell" on Justia Law

by
A.N. was adjudicated delinquent for aggravated incest involving his sister, J.N. The petition charging A.N. alleged that J.N. was between ages seven and eleven, and that A.N. was between twelve and sixteen when the offending acts occurred. The investigation began in 2011 when J.N. submitted a poem she wrote for school expressing her anger at her older brother for molesting her. J.N.’s teacher passed the poem to a social worker who later confirmed with J.N. that she had been sexually abused by her brother. A.N. admitted that he and J.N. engaged in sexual acts but stated it was consensual. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted a writ in this matter primarily to address the constitutionality of mandatory lifetime sex offender registration as applied to a juvenile. Finding that A.N. did not have a right to file for post-conviction relief because he was not in custody at the time of his application, the Supreme Court affirmed the denial of A.N.’s post-conviction relief application by the juvenile court. Since A.N. was denied relief on the basis of custody, all remaining issues presented by his writ application, including whether R.S. 15:542 is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, were moot. View "Louisiana in the Interest of A.N." on Justia Law

by
In February 2017, five-year-old N.H. reported to her grandfather that E.S. “has me put his missy in my mouth.” N.H.’s grandfather asked her to repeat herself, with which she complied, but otherwise he did not inquire further. According to N.H.’s grandfather, “missy” was the term N.H. used at the time to describe a person's genitalia. He repeated N.H.’s disclosure to N.H.’s mother who then reported the allegations to law enforcement. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted the writ in this matter primarily to address the constitutionality of mandatory lifetime sex offender registration under R.S. 15:5421 as applied to a juvenile. E.S. was ultimately adjudicated delinquent for the first degree rape of a child under the age of thirteen years old. Finding that there was insufficient evidence to determine E.S. was fourteen years old at the time of the offense, and therefore mandatory disposition pursuant to Ch. C. art. 897.13 and R.S. 15:542 was inapplicable to the case at hand, the Supreme Court affirmed the adjudication of first degree rape, reversed the court of appeal’s determination that there was sufficient evidence to establish E.S.’s age, vacated the disposition of the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Louisiana in the Interest of E.S." on Justia Law

by
In 2015, the state filed a petition alleging that R.M. committed the felony-grade delinquent act of possession with intent to distribute a counterfeit controlled dangerous substance when he was 15 years old. R.M. appeared to answer the petition and entered a denial of the allegations. Pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 877(B), the state had 90 days to commence the adjudication. R.M. filed a motion to challenge competency. The juvenile court appointed a panel of doctors to evaluate R.M. The court stayed the proceedings pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 832 and set a competency hearing. The court, on its own motion, reset the hearing date several times after R.M. was arrested on a new charge and to give the doctors additional time to evaluate R.M. The court ultimately held the competency hearing on March 17, 2016, and found R.M. competent to proceed based on the doctors’ recommendations. The juvenile court set the adjudication for April 14, but continued the hearing until May 4 because the police officers involved in the case were not served. On May 4, 2016, the parties appeared for the adjudication, and the state made an oral motion to continue because the officers still had not been subpoenaed. In response, R.M. made an oral motion to dismiss the delinquency petition. The trial court granted R.M.’s motion, finding that the competency determination had resulted in unreasonable delay not attributable to any fault of the juvenile. The state sought supervisory review from the court of appeal, which affirmed the juvenile court’s dismissal in a split decision. The juvenile argues in essence that the state was still obligated to seek an extension for good cause, pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 877(D), although R.M.’s competency was placed at issue and the proceedings were stayed pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 832. The court of appeal agreed and found “that the stay pursuant to article 832 did not relieve the State of its duty to request and obtain a good cause extension before the article 877 mandatory time limit expired.” The Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the juvenile court prematurely dismissed the state’s petition. The Court reversed, finding that R.M.s’ motion to dismiss on May 4, 2016 was only 48-days in, close to a month of the 90-day period provided by La.Ch.C. art. 877 remained. View "State of Louisiana in the interest of R.M." on Justia Law

by
Baton Rouge police officers found two juveniles passed out at 1 a.m. in a truck parked at a McDonald’s restaurant. A strong odor of marijuana emanated from the open windows. Fifteen-year-old C.T. was seated in the front passenger seat with a pistol in his lap. A search revealed a bag of marijuana in the driver’s possession as well as a burnt marijuana cigarette in the center console. Crystal Etue had reported the truck stolen several weeks earlier. She did not know either juvenile or authorize them to use the truck. C.T. was adjudicated delinquent for illegally carrying a weapon while in possession of a controlled dangerous substance, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. The juvenile court committed him to the custody of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections until he turned twenty-one. The court of appeal affirmed the adjudication and commitment. Finding no reversible error in the adjudication and commitment, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed. View "Louisiana in the Interest of C.T." on Justia Law

by
The state filed a petition alleging A.C., at the age of 14 years, committed the felony-grade delinquent acts of aggravated rape of a victim under the age of 13 years, and indecent behavior with a juvenile. Pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 877(B), the state had 90 days to commence the adjudication hearing, which was until Monday, June 6, 2016. The juvenile court set the adjudication hearing for Friday, June 3, 2016. On that date, the state made a motion to continue the hearing alleging that the prosecutor and the family of the victims had been out of town and witnesses had not been subpoenaed. Counsel for A.C. objected and indicated that, as soon as the 90-day limit passed, counsel would file a motion to dismiss the delinquency petition. The juvenile court found there was not good cause to extend the 90-day period and additionally dismissed the delinquency petition at that time. The state objected and gave notice of its intent to seek supervisory review in the court of appeal. The court of appeal granted the state’s writ application and reversed. On October 13, 2016, A.C. moved again to dismiss the delinquency petition, contending that the 90-day time limit had run, and argued in the alternative that the time was not suspended when the state sought supervisory review or, if the time was suspended, it began to run again after the court of appeal’s ruling on October 7, 2016, and had now run out. After the juvenile court denied A.C.’s motion to dismiss, A.C. gave notice of his intent to seek supervisory review from the court of appeal. The court of appeal granted A.C.’s writ application and dismissed the delinquency petition for failure to timely commence the adjudication hearing. The state asserted that there was good cause on day 88, and the court of appeal previously found the juvenile court acted prematurely in dismissing the petition. The Louisiana Supreme Court agreed the juvenile court’s dismissal was premature. While it would have been a better practice for the state to seek a stay from the juvenile court, or obtaining none from that court, seek a stay from the court of appeal, the Supreme Court found the state’s failure to obtain a stay was not fatal under the circumstances. The Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Louisiana in the Interest of A.C." on Justia Law

by
Defendant Thayer Green was adjudicated a third felony offender and sentenced under the Habitual Offender Law to a term of life in prison without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence, for a home invasion committed as a juvenile. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010) applied to an enhanced single sentence of life in prison without parole under the habitual offender statute. The Louisiana Court held Graham was, indeed, applicable to a defendant who was adjudicated and sentenced as a habitual offender to life without parole for an offense committed as a juvenile. Therefore, the Court amended defendant’s life sentence under the Habitual Offender Law to delete the restriction on parole eligibility and directed the Department of Corrections to revise defendant’s prison masters according to the criteria in La. R.S. 15:574.4(D) to reflect an eligibility date for consideration by the Board of Parole. View "Louisiana v. Green" on Justia Law

by
A jury found defendant Alden Morgan, committed armed robbery at age 17. Following return of the guilty verdict, the district court sentenced him to 99 years imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. After being denied relief on direct review, defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence in light of recent developments in Eighth Amendment jurisprudence pertaining to the sentencing of juveniles. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted the defendant’s writ application to determine whether the defendant’s 99-year sentence was an effective life sentence and was, therefore, illegal under the Supreme Court’s decision in "Graham v. Florida," (560 U.S. 48 (2010)). The Louisiana Court held that a 99-year sentence without parole was illegal because it did not provide the defendant “with a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” Accordingly, the Court amended defendant’s sentence to delete the restriction on parole eligibility. View "State ex rel Moran v. Louisiana" on Justia Law