Justia Juvenile Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in New Mexico Supreme Court
Ira v. Janecka
Three federal Supreme Court cases created a special category under the Eighth Amendment for juvenile offenders whose culpability was mitigated by adolescence and immaturity. "The cases recognize that a juvenile is more likely to be rehabilitated than an adult and therefore should receive a meaningful opportunity to obtain release by demonstrating maturity and rehabilitation." Petitioner Joel Ira, was sentenced as a juvenile to 91.5 years after he pled no contest to several counts of criminal sexual penetration and intimidation of a witness - crimes which he committed when he was fourteen and fifteen years old. Under the relevant New Mexico Earned Meritorious Deduction Act (EMDA), petitioner would be eligible for parole when he has served one-half of his sentence (approximately 46 years) if he maintained good behavior while incarcerated. He would be approximately 62 years old when he could first be eligible for parole. Petitioner sought habeas relief, arguing that his sentence would be cruel and unusual punishment because it amounted to a life sentence. He relied on both New Mexico and federal Supreme Court jurisprudence as grounds for relief. The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded that Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010) applied when a multiple term-of-years sentence would in all likelihood keep a juvenile in prison for the rest of his or her life because the juvenile would be deprived of a meaningful opportunity to obtain release by demonstrating his or her maturity and rehabilitation. In this case, petitioner could be eligible for a parole hearing when he reached 62 years old if he demonstrated good behavior under the EMDA. Therefore, the New Mexico Court concluded petitioner had a meaningful opportunity to obtain release by demonstrating his maturity and rehabilitation before the Parole Board. View "Ira v. Janecka" on Justia Law
New Mexico v. Filemon V.
The State of New Mexico appealed the suppression of two statements made by sixteen-year-old Filemon V. Filemon made the first statement to his probation officers. The New Mexico Supreme Court held that, absent a valid waiver, Section 32A-2-14(C) of the Delinquency Act of the Children’s Code precluded the admission of Filemon’s statement to his probation officers while in investigatory detention. The Court affirmed the district court’s order suppressing the use of the statement in a subsequent prosecution. The second contested statement was elicited by police officers at the Silver City Police Department. Filemon was at this point in custody, and entitled to be warned of his Miranda rights. At issue was whether the midstream Miranda warnings were sufficient to inform Filemon of his rights. The Supreme Court concluded the warnings were insufficient under Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004). Because the statement was elicited in clear violation of the Fifth Amendment and Section 32A-2- 19 14, the district court’s suppression of the statement was affirmed. View "New Mexico v. Filemon V." on Justia Law
New Mexico v. Rivas
The New Mexico Supreme Court addressed the circumstances under which detectives may question a juvenile defendant in the absence of and without notification of a court-appointed attorney or court-appointed guardian ad litem. Then-fifteen-year-old defendant Juan Rivas’ convictions arose from his killing of eighty-three-year-old Clara Alvarez as she slept in her bed. Evidence presented at trial included two statements Defendant had made to detectives. Based on the evidence presented, a jury convicted Defendant of first-degree murder, aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle. Defendant was then sentenced to life imprisonment. Defendant appealed. Finding no reversible error as to the admission of either statement, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Mexico v. Rivas" on Justia Law
New Mexico v. DeAngelo M.
DeAngelo M. (Child) was thirteen years and eight days old when, during a custodial interrogation by three law enforcement officers, he made inculpatory statements regarding a burglary, which connected him to a murder. Had Child made his statements nine days earlier, his statements would not have been admissible against him in any delinquency proceedings. Had Child been fifteen years old at the time of his statement, his statement would have been admissible if the prosecution proved by a preponderance that Child’s statement was elicited after waiver of his constitutional and statutory rights. However, because Child was thirteen years old and his statement was given to a person in a position of authority, there was a rebuttable presumption that his statement was inadmissable. The Court of Appeals held that to rebut the presumption, the prosecution had to prove by clear and convincing evidence, through expert testimony, that “Child had the maturity and intelligence of an average fifteen-year-old child to understand his situation and the rights he possessed.” The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s denial of the motion to suppress because the prosecution did not meet this burden and remanded for a new trial. The State appealed. After review, the Supreme Court held that Section 32A-2-14(F) required the State to prove by clear and convincing evidence that at the time a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old child makes a statement, confession, or admission to a person in a position of authority, the child: (1) was warned of his constitutional and statutory rights; and (2) knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived each right. To prove the second element, the recording of the custodial interrogation which resulted in the statement, confession, or admission must prove clearly and convincingly that the child’s answer to open-ended questions demonstrated that the thirteen- or fourteen-year-old child had the maturity to understand each of his or her constitutional and statutory rights and the force of will to insist on exercising those rights. Expert testimony may assist the fact-finder in understanding the evidence or determining the facts, but it is not essential. The Supreme Court concluded that the evidence in this case did not prove that Child knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived each right. Therefore, his statement should have been suppressed. View "New Mexico v. DeAngelo M." on Justia Law
New Mexico v. Gutierrez
Sixteen-year-old Defendant Oden Gutierrez confessed to shooting and killing Thomas Powell in Powell's home and stealing his car. Defendant was charged by criminal information with an open charge of murder, aggravated burglary, armed robbery for stealing a car while armed with a deadly weapon, and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle. A jury found him guilty on all counts and he was sentenced to life in prison plus nineteen and one-half years. Defendant appealed his sentence. He raised several issues which fell into four categories: (1) the suppression of evidence pertaining to his confession; (2) change of venue due to prejudicial pre-trial publicity; (3) a double jeopardy violation for his convictions of both armed robbery and the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle; and (4) an unlawful sentence based on constitutional grounds, mainly that a life sentence was cruel and unusual punishment for a youthful offender. Upon careful consideration of Defendant's arguments, the trial record, and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court reversed Defendant's sentence and remanded the case for re-sentencing with instructions that a pre-sentence report be prepared. The Court also vacated Defendant's conviction for unlawful taking of a motor vehicle because it violated the proscription against double jeopardy in this case. The Court affirmed the district court on all other issues. View "New Mexico v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law