Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
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In 2004, De’Andre Dampier was convicted of a capital murder committed during an auto-dealership robbery when he was 16 years old. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, which was the only statutory sentence available at the time. In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that imposing mandatory life-without-parole sentences on juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment. Based on this ruling, the Supreme Court of Mississippi granted Dampier’s request to seek post-conviction relief from his life-without-parole sentence. However, before the trial court addressed any of the factors from the US Supreme Court decision, it vacated Dampier’s life-without-parole sentence. Dampier then requested that a jury be convened to decide if he should be sentenced to life with or without parole, but the trial judge denied this request. After a hearing in which the trial judge considered the factors from the US Supreme Court decision, the judge reimposed a sentence of life in prison without parole.The Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the decisions of the lower courts, holding that Dampier did not have a statutory right to be sentenced by a jury. The court emphasized that the decision to be made by the trial court was whether Dampier was entitled to post-conviction relief from his life-without-parole sentence, imposed for a crime committed when he was a juvenile. The court also agreed with the lower courts that the trial judge did not err by denying Dampier’s request for jury sentencing. Furthermore, the court agreed with the lower courts that the trial court did not err by ruling that, after a careful consideration of the factors from the US Supreme Court decision, life without parole was an appropriate sentence for Dampier’s crime. View "Dampier v. State of Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe appealed the youth court’s denial of her motion to transfer for lack of jurisdiction and motion for recusal. In 2019, Jane was arrested in Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi, and charged with possession and sale of a controlled substance. At the time of her arrest, Jane was pregnant and homeless. As a condition of her bond with Adams County, Jane was placed at Born Free, a residential facility in Hinds County that provided substance abuse treatment to pregnant mothers. Jane entered Born Free on May 30, 2019. On July 16, 2019, Jane gave birth to Karen at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Hinds County. Jane later returned to Born Free with Karen. On August 19, 2019, Jane was negatively discharged from Born Free for various program violations. The Adams County Sheriff’s Department was contacted, and Jane was transported back to Adams County. The Adams County Department of Child Protection Services (CPS) was also contacted and took Karen into custody. Karen was placed in an approved foster home where she remained under the supervision and control of CPS. Upon her return to Adams County, Jane rented an apartment in Adams County. On December 10, 2019, the Adams County County Court, sitting as a youth court,2 adjudicated Karen a neglected child. As part of the permanency plan of reunification, CPS developed a service agreement with Jane. Jane failed to comply with the service agreement and further failed to maintain contact with CPS. As a result, on December 10, 2020, the youth court found that it was in Karen’s best interests for the permanency plan to change from reunification to adoption. CPS ultimately filed a petition to terminate parental rights. Jane moved to transfer her case to Hinds County since she was in court-ordered rehabilitation in Hinds County, and that the judge presiding over her case should have recused because he concluded termination of her parental rights was proper. Jane's motions were denied and she appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no reversible error in the court's denial of Jane's transfer motion and recusal and affirmed. View "Jane Doe v. Department of Child Protection Services" on Justia Law

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At issue in this interlocutory appeal was whether the circuit court had jurisdiction to hear defendant Rayvon Altman's case. In August 2020, Altman was indicted in on four counts of aggravated assault in violation of Mississippi Code Section 97-3-7(a)(1) (Rev. 2020). The indictment alleged that Altman intentionally drove his motor vehicle into another vehicle, which was occupied by four people, in an attempt to injure the occupants. It was subsequently acknowledged that the occupants of the other vehicle were Altman’s mother, siblings, and stepfather. In early 2021, Altman filed a motion to dismiss the indictment for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the indictment should have been dismissed because the youth court had exclusive jurisdiction under Section 43-21-151 because he was under eighteen years of age at the time of the alleged offense. The Mississippi Supreme Court found both Altman and the State agreed that the deadly weapon exception was inapplicable because Section 97-37-1 did not prohibit the concealed carrying of an automobile. Thus, the circuit court did not have jurisdiction over Altman because he was a minor at the time the alleged offense was committed. The circuit court’s order was reversed and the case remanded to the circuit court for it to render a judgment dismissing Altman’s indictment and to “forward all documents pertaining to the cause to the youth court[.]” View "Altman v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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David Blue was convicted of capital murder when the only sentences for that crime were death or life imprisonment. Blue was sentenced to death, and his death sentence was subsequently found unconstitutional because he was both intellectually disabled and a minor when he committed the crime. The trial court sentenced Blue to life without parole, and he requested a "Miller" hearing to determine whether that new sentence was appropriate. While his petition for post-conviction relief was pending before the trial court, the Mississippi Supreme Court found Section 99-19-107 inapplicable to individuals for whom the death penalty was found unconstitutional. The trial court ordered a mental evaluation to help with a Miller determination regarding whether to sentence Blue to life or life without the possibility of parole. Blue filed an interlocutory appeal with the Supreme Court, arguing that a mental evaluation and hearing were unnecessary, because only one constitutional sentence was available: life imprisonment. The State argued that life without parole was a sentencing option because the statutory amendments that added life without parole as a sentencing option for capital murder applied to Blue. Because applying life without parole as a sentencing option to Blue would violate the prohibition against ex post facto laws, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded the case with instructions to sentence Blue to life imprisonment. View "Blue v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In 1994, sixteen-and-a-half-year-old Stephen McGilberry brutally murdered four family members, including his three-year-old nephew. McGilberry premeditated and planned his crime, enlisting a younger neighbor’s help. A jury found McGilberry guilty of four counts of capital murder and sentenced him to death. But in 2005, the United States Supreme Court invalidated the death penalty for offenders who committed their capital crimes before reaching the age of eighteen. McGilberry's death sentence was vacated and he was resentenced to life without parole. In 2012, the Supreme Court held that the mandatory imposition of life without parole for crimes committed before the offender turned eighteen violated the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Based on Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), the Mississippi Supreme Court granted McGilberry permission to seek post-conviction relief from his sentence. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that the record supported the trial court's determination that McGilberry should have been sentenced to life without parole based on his "irreparably corrupt nature," the Court found no abuse of discretion in the sentencing decision. View "McGilberry v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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E.C. alleged she was sexually assaulted on the premises of Pass Christian High School. The Youth Court adjudicated the alleged perpetrators not delinquent. Later, Roy and Kimberly Cuevas, individually, and on behalf of their minor daughter, E.C., filed a negligence action seeking damages from the Pass Christian School District associated with the alleged assault. Pass Christian unsuccessfully sought the records from the youth-court action to use in its defense in the civil case. It argued on appeal that the youth-court judge abused her discretion in denying its requests for disclosure of the youth-court records and trial transcripts relating to the three minor perpetrators. It also argued it would be denied due process and fairness if the sworn testimony of E.C. were not released due to the confidentiality rules protecting the subjects of youth-court actions. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the circuit court to conduct an in camera review of the youth-court record to determine whether any of it should have been disclosed. View "In the Interest of M.D.G. v. Harrison County Youth Court of Mississippi" on Justia Law

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L.B.C. appeals the Forrest County Youth Court’s requirement that he register as a sex offender. In 2015, L.B.C. sexually battered two six-year-old girls. L.B.C. admitted to sexually penetrating the two victims with his fingers. At the time, L.B.C. was fourteen years old. Each of the four issues appealed by L.B.C. arose from the registration requirement: (1) his delinquency adjudication of sexual battery did not involve the use of force and was not an offense that required him to register as a sex offender; (2) requiring registration without an individual determination that he was a threat to the public violated his constitutional rights; (3) he should not be required to register as a sex offender since he had a mental age of nine and had been fourteen years old for only three months at the time of the incidents; and (4) requiring him to register as a sex offender violated the confidentiality requirements of youth-court proceedings. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the disposition of the youth court. View "In the Interest of L.B.C. v. Forrest County Youth Court" on Justia Law