Justia Juvenile Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court
South Carolina v. Miller
Petitioner Robert Miller, III was convicted of murdering eighty-six-year-old Willie Johnson. Following the murder, Petitioner—who was fifteen years old at the time—confessed four times: twice to his close friends and twice to law enforcement. All four confessions were admitted at trial, three without objection. This appeal centered around the voluntariness of Petitioner's fourth and final confession to two agents of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). After examining the totality of the circumstances surrounding the fourth confession, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that Petitioner's free will was not overborne, and his confession was voluntary. It therefore affirmed. View "South Carolina v. Miller" on Justia Law
Jones v. South Carolina
Petitioner Anthony Jones pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and armed robbery, crimes he committed at the ages of sixteen and seventeen, respectively. Pursuant to subsection 63-19-20(1), South Carolina's definitional statute of chapter nineteen in the Juvenile Justice Code, the circuit court had jurisdiction over Jones's charges, rather than the family court. The circuit court judge sentenced Jones to ten years in prison for armed robbery and fifteen years for first-degree burglary, with the sentences to run concurrently. Jones did not file a direct appeal. Instead, he filed an application for post-conviction relief ("PCR") on several grounds, including a challenge to the constitutionality of subsection 63-19-20(1). After a hearing, the PCR court dismissed the application, finding the constitutional challenge was not a cognizable PCR claim and, even if it were, the statute was constitutional. The South Carolina Supreme Court concluded Jones properly brought this challenge in his PCR application and subsection 63-19-20(1) was constitutional. However, in keeping with prior decisions regarding sentencing juveniles, the Court held circuit court judges had to consider the mitigating factors of youth as identified in Aiken v. Byars when sentencing. "Consideration of these factors can be done at sentencing; therefore, a separate Aiken hearing is not required." Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Jones v. South Carolina" on Justia Law
South Carolina v. Smart
Petitioner Jon Smart and his co-defendant, Stephen Hutto, were in custody at a Department of Juvenile Justice detention facility near Rimini in Clarendon County in August 1999 when they brutally murdered a citizen volunteer who graciously allowed the boys to work on his family farm under his supervision as a part of their rehabilitation. Smart and Hutto then stole the man's truck and drove it on a violent crime spree. After Horry County Police officers stopped them for a traffic violation and discovered the truck was stolen, Smart and Hutto led officers on a thirty-mile high-speed chase during which Smart fired shots at pursuing law enforcement vehicles. Smart was sixteen years old. Smart pled guilty in 2001 to murder, armed robbery, grand larceny, criminal conspiracy, and escape. The plea court sentenced him to life in prison for the murder. The issue his appeal presented for the South Carolina Supreme Court's review centered on whether a juvenile sentenced to life in prison, bore any burden of proof or persuasion when seeking resentencing under Aiken v. Byars, 765 S.E.2d 572 (2014). The Supreme Court held there was no such burden—on either party—and the resentencing court did not impose such a burden. View "South Carolina v. Smart" on Justia Law
South Carolina v. Smith
Four months shy of his eighteenth birthday, petitioner Terrell Smith stabbed his friend Brandon Bennett (the victim) to death. When the victim's father Darryl Bennett walked in on the stabbing, Smith laughed at Bennett's anguish and attempted to stab Bennett to death as well. Following a jury trial, Smith was convicted and sentenced to thirty-five years' imprisonment for murder and thirty years' imprisonment for attempted murder, the sentences to be run concurrently. Despite receiving a sentence longer than the mandatory minimum, Smith argued the statute was unconstitutional because it placed juvenile and adult homicide offenders on equal footing for sentencing purposes, and the Eighth Amendment, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama, forbade such a result. In accordance with the overwhelming majority of states that have addressed similar arguments, the South Carolina Court held the mandatory minimum sentence imposed by section 16-3-20(A) of the South Carolina Code (2015) was constitutional as applied to juveniles, and affirmed Smith's convictions and sentences. View "South Carolina v. Smith" on Justia Law
South Carolina v. Slocumb
At age 13, petitioner Conrad Slocumb kidnapped and sexually assaulted a teacher before shooting her in the face and head five times and leaving her for dead. Three years later, following his guilty plea for the first set of crimes, he escaped from custody and raped and robbed another woman in a brutal manner before being apprehended again. For these two sets of crimes, Slocumb received an aggregate 130-year sentence due to the individual sentences being run consecutively. Before the South Carolina Supreme Court, Slocumb argued an aggregate 130-year sentence for multiple offenses committed on multiple dates violated the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The South Carolina Court acknowledged the “ostensible merit in Slocumb's argument, for it is arguably a reasonable extension of Graham [v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010)] and Miller [v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012)]. Yet precedent dictates that only the Supreme Court may extend and enlarge the protections guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Once the Supreme Court has drawn a line in the sand, the authority to redraw that line and broaden federal constitutional protections is limited to our nation's highest court.” Because the decision to expand the reach and protections of the Eighth Amendment lay exclusively with the Supreme Court, the South Carolina Supreme Court felt constrained to deny Slocumb relief. View "South Carolina v. Slocumb" on Justia Law
In the Interest of Justin B.
Justin B. was found delinquent for committing criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree. The family court imposed the mandatory, statutory requirement that he register as a sex offender and wear an electronic monitor, both for life. Justin B. claimed the mandatory imposition of lifetime registration and electronic monitoring on juveniles was unconstitutional. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the family court. View "In the Interest of Justin B." on Justia Law
In the Interest of Justin B.
Appellant Justin B. challenged the active electronic monitoring requirements of section 23-3-540 of the South Carolina Code. Appellant argued that because he was a juvenile, the imposition of lifetime monitoring under the statute constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the federal and state constitutions. The Supreme Court found that electronic monitoring was not a punishment, and rejected Appellant's claim. However, the Court concluded Appellant must be granted periodic judicial review to determine the necessity of continued monitoring. View "In the Interest of Justin B." on Justia Law