Articles Posted in North Carolina Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in reversing the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that the suppression motion contained sufficient findings of fact to support the trial court’s conclusion that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his juvenile rights pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-2101 before making certain incriminating statements. The court of appeals determined that the totality of the circumstances set forth in the record did not fully support the trial court’s conclusion that Defendant knowingly, willingly, and understandingly waived his juvenile rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court’s findings of fact had adequate evidentiary support, and those findings supported the trial court’s conclusion that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his juvenile rights; and (2) in reaching a contrary conclusion, the court of appeals failed to focus upon the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court’s findings of fact and to give proper deference to those findings. View "State v. Saldierna" on Justia Law

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At issue was the validity of the procedures prescribed in N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-1340.19A - 15A-1340.19(D) (the Act) for the sentencing of juveniles convicted of first-degree murder in light of Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012) and its progeny. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes he committed when he was sixteen years old. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction, a sentence that was then mandatory. After Miller was decided, the trial court resentenced Defendant to life imprisonment without parole. On appeal, Defendant challenged the constitutionality of the Act. The Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the Act but reversed the resentencing judgment, concluding that the trial court failed to make adequate findings of fact to support its decision to impose the sentence. The Supreme Court modified and affirmed, holding (1) the Act does not incorporate a presumption in favor of a sentence of life without parole upon juveniles convicted of first-degree murder on the basis of a theory other than the felony murder rule; (2) the Act is not impermissibly vague, conducive to the imposition of arbitrary punishments, or an unconstitutional ex post facto law; and (3) further sentencing proceedings are required in this case. View "State v. James" on Justia Law

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The Juvenile Code does not mandate that a petition alleging a juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent must be filed only by the director or authorized agent of the department of social services of the county “in which the juvenile resides or is found.” See N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-101. The Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, Youth and Family Division (YFS) filed a juvenile petition with the District Court in Mecklenburg County alleging that A.P. was a neglected and dependent juvenile. The trial court concluded that A.P. was a neglected and dependent juvenile. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that YFS did not have standing to file the juvenile petition because Mecklenburg County was not the juvenile’s county of residence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statutory sections in the Juvenile Code governing parties and venue did not mandate dismissal of the juvenile petition under the circumstances of this case. View "In re A.P." on Justia Law

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Following a termination of parental rights (TPR) hearing, the trial court entered an order terminating both parents' parental rights to J.H.K. and J.D.K. The father appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in conducting the TPR hearing when the minor children's non-attorney guardian ad litem (GAL) volunteer was not physically present in court. The court of appeals reversed, concluding the children were not represented by a GAL at a critical stage of the termination proceedings pursuant to the juvenile code. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that a local GAL program represents a juvenile within the meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-601 and 7B-1108 by performing the duties listed in section 7B-601 and that the non-lawyer GAL volunteer is not required to be physically present at the TPR hearing. The Court concluded that the GAL met its obligations in the present case under the statutes. View "In re J.H.K. and J.D.K." on Justia Law