Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
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The issue this case presented for the Georgia Supreme Court's review centered on whether a child charged with delinquency based on an alleged violation of Georgia’s Criminal Code could assert an affirmative defense of insanity or delusional compulsion, under OCGA §sections 16-3-2 or 16-3-3, in a juvenile-court proceeding. The Georgia Supreme Court found that the Juvenile Code did not expressly state whether affirmative defenses provided for in the Criminal Code were available in juvenile court. Based on the Juvenile Code’s text and structure, however, the Court concluded that insanity and delusional-compulsion defenses were available in most delinquency proceedings, specifically holding that in a delinquency proceeding, a child could assert an insanity or delusional-compulsion defense under OCGA sections 16-3-2 or 16-3-3 when the child’s delinquency charge is based on an allegation that the child committed “[a]n act . . . designated a crime by the laws of this state.” Because the juvenile court erred in concluding that a child could never raise an insanity or delusional-compulsion defense in a delinquency proceeding, the Supreme Court vacated the court’s order denying the motion of T.B. which sought a forensic psychological evaluation for purposes of raising a defense under OCGA 16-3-2 or 16-3-3. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Interest of T.B." on Justia Law

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Kevonta Daniels was convicted by jury of felony murder in connection with the shooting death of Kenneth Moore; the aggravated assaults of Jai Williams, Jamal Williams, and James Williams; the theft of vehicles belonging to Jamal Williams, Marcus Jones, and Alvin Walker; and other offenses. Following the denial of his motion for new trial, Daniels argued on appeal that the trial court erred by admitting statements he made to the police into evidence at trial. Daniels, who was 14 years old at the time of the crimes and when he was interviewed by the police, specifically argued the State failed to prove that he knowingly and voluntarily waived his constitutional rights before speaking with the police and that his statements should also have been excluded because the police failed to comply with provisions of the Juvenile Code relating to custody of juvenile arrestees. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Daniels v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Dequan Holmes appealed his convictions for felony murder, aggravated assault, and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime for the shooting death of Javares Alston and the non-fatal shooting of Danielle Willingham. He argued on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to convict him and that the trial court committed plain error when it charged the jury to “consider with great care and caution” Holmes’s out-of-court statements. Holmes, a juvenile at the time the crime was committed, also challenged his sentence of life without parole, arguing that it violated the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. The Georgia Supreme Court held the evidence was sufficient to convict Holmes and that any error in the trial court’s instruction to the jury did not amount to plain error because the instruction did not affect the outcome of his trial. The Supreme Court also concluded Holmes’ sentence of life without parole was not prohibited by United States Supreme Court precedent, especially in the light of that Court’s recent decision in Jones v. Mississippi, ____ U.S. ___ (141 S.Ct 1307 (2021)). View "Holmes v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Jermontae Moss was convicted of felony murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and theft by receiving stolen property in connection with the 2011 shooting death of Jose Marin. At the time of the crime, Moss was 17 years old and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. On appeal, he contended he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel, and that the court erred in imposing that sentence. Finding no merit to either contention, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Moss' conviction and sentence. View "Moss v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Kelvin Hurston and his co-defendant Dextreion Shealey were convicted of felony murder and other crimes in connection with the gang-related shooting death of Daven Tucker. Appellant contended the trial court violated his constitutional right to be present during his trial and that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to request a ruling on his motion to sever his trial from Shealey’s, failing to request a ruling on his motion to suppress evidence derived from a search warrant, failing to request a jury instruction on accomplice corroboration, and failing to request a proper limiting instruction on other-act evidence. Finding no merit to any of these claims, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Appellant's convictions. View "Hurston v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Layton Lester was convicted of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Lorrine Bozeman. Bozeman, who lived in a house with her mother and who was fifteen-year-old Lester’s great aunt, received a large amount of cash that she was planning to use to buy a piece of property. On the evening of April 29, 2007, Lester was at co-indictee Shurrod Rich’s house. Rich’s brother was present and heard Lester suggest to Rich that they “go rob” Bozeman, telling Rich that they could get $5,000 from the robbery. Between 10:00 and 10:30 p.m. on the same evening, Bozeman’s front door was kicked in and she was shot twice. Bozeman’s sister, Vernel Clay, who lived several houses away, heard the gunshots and saw two people running through her backyard afterwards. When Rich and Lester returned to Rich’s house, Rich’s brother observed that Lester had changed into black clothes, was breathing hard, was nervous, and later had cash to spend for food. Rich and Lester told Sean Ross, a friend of theirs who lived in the area, that they had robbed and shot Bozeman and that she had screamed. After Lester’s mother overheard Lester talking on the phone and noticed that he was acting nervous and scared, she grew concerned and approached law enforcement. The jury would find Lester guilty on all counts, and he was ultimately sentenced to life in prison for malice murder, a concurrent term of 20 years for armed robbery, and terms of 20 years for burglary to run consecutively to the murder sentence and 5 years for the firearm count to run consecutively to the burglary sentence. The felony-murder counts were vacated by operation of law. On appeal, Lester contends that the trial court erred in admitting statements he made to law enforcement after Bozeman’s death and in denying his “motion for mistrial” arising from the presence of an alternate juror during jury deliberations. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Lester v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Antavian Love was convicted of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Enrique Trejo. On appeal, Love, who was 16 years old at the time the crimes were committed, argued the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress his statements to law enforcement and in sentencing him as a juvenile to serve life without parole. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed his convictions. View "Love v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In 2013 when he was 17 years old, Dantazias Raines was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (“LWOP”) for malice murder. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Raines' convictions and sentences in part, reversed Raines' convictions for misdemeanor obstruction of a police officer, and vacated his sentence in part. On remand, Raines filed a motion for a jury to make the requisite determination under Veal v. Georgia, 784 SE2d 403 (2016). The trial court denied his motion and certified its order for immediate review. The Supreme Court granted Raines' request for interlocutory review to consider whether a defendant facing a sentence of life without parole for an offense committed when he was a juvenile had a constitutional right to have a jury (as opposed to a judge) make the requisite determination of whether he was “irreparably corrupt” or “permanently incorrigible.” Raines argued in favor of having a jury make the determination prior to imposition of a LWOP sentence; the State argued a defendant did not have a right under the Sixth Amendment for the jury to make the "specific determination" outlined in Veal. The Supreme Court held a defendant convicted of committing murder as a juvenile did not have a federal constitutional right to have a jury determine, in accordance with Veal and the Sixth Amendment, whether he was irreparably corrupt or permanently incorrigible such that he may be sentenced to LWOP, thereby affirming the trial court. View "Raines v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Vas Coleman was arrested at his home in Huntsville, Alabama on charges related to the 2015 death of Jose Greer in Fulton County, Georgia. Although Coleman was sixteen years old at the time of his arrest, the Fulton County Superior Court had exclusive jurisdiction over his case pursuant to OCGA 15-11-560 (b) (1) because he was accused of murder. After his arrest, Coleman was held at the Fulton County Youth Detention Center until he was granted a bond on March 24, 2016, and subsequently released. On April 8, 2016, Coleman was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury, along with four co-defendants, for felony murder and burglary in relation to Greer’s death. Almost two years later, on March 20, 2018, Coleman and his co-defendants were re-indicted on the same charges. After the State nolle prossed the April 2016 indictment, Coleman filed a motion to transfer his case to juvenile court, arguing that, because the March 2018 indictment was returned outside the 180-day time limit set by OCGA 17-7-50.1, the Superior Court no longer had jurisdiction. Relying on the Court of Appeals’ decisions in Edwards v. Georgia, 748 SE2d 501 (2013) and Georgia v. Armendariz, 729 SE2d 538 (2012), the trial court granted Coleman’s motion to transfer. The State appealed, arguing that the trial court granted the motion in error. “Reading the statute in its most natural and reasonable way,” the Georgia Supreme Court concluded the 180-day time limitation in OCGA 17-7-50.1 did not apply to a juvenile who was released and remained on bond prior to the running of 180 days. The Court overruled Edwards, and further concluded the trial court erred in transferring Coleman’s case to the juvenile court. View "Georgia v. Coleman" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to address whether Georgia’s new Juvenile Code required a party to follow the interlocutory appeal procedures laid out in OCGA 5-6-34 (b) when appealing an order concerning the transfer of a case from juvenile to superior court. The Court held that it did not and, in so doing, reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to be decided on the merits. View "In the Interest of K.S., a child" on Justia Law