Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Missouri
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The Supreme Court denied the writ of prohibition sought by T.J. to dismiss the state's prosecution against him without prejudice so that the circuit court's juvenile division may adjudicate the charges against him, holding that T.J. was not entitled to the writ.The State charged T.J. in the court of general jurisdiction with committing three felony offenses when he was seventeen years old. T.J. filed a motion to dismiss, contending that the juvenile division had the exclusive authority to adjudicate the charges against him pursuant to legislation enacted in 2018. The circuit court overruled the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the juvenile division did not have the statutory authority to adjudicate the charged offenses. View "State ex rel. T.J., v. Honorable Cundiff" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing without prejudice the state's prosecution against R.J.G., who was alleged to have committed several felony offenses when he was seventeen years old, holding that the circuit court erred in dismissing the state's prosecution in the court of general jurisdiction.The state charged R.J.G. with felony offenses in a court of general jurisdiction. R.J.G. filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the circuit court's juvenile division had the exclusive statutory authority to adjudicate the charges pursuant to legislation enacted in 2018. The circuit court agreed and sustained the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the law as it existed at the time R.J.G. was alleged to have committed the offenses governed which division had the authority to adjudicate the offenses; and (2) the juvenile division did not have the statutory to adjudicate the offenses in this case, and therefore, the circuit court erred in dismissing the state's prosecution in the court of general jurisdiction. View "State v. R.J.G." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed certification order of the family court division releasing and discharging J.T.J. from the jurisdiction of the family court and allowing his case to be transferred to a court of general jurisdiction for trial as an adult, holding that there was no error.A juvenile officer filed a petition in the family court alleging that J.T.J., a juvenile, committed second-degree burglary, first-degree property damages, and misdemeanor stealing. The juvenile officer subsequently filed motions to modify alleging more counts and requesting the transfer of jurisdiction of J.T.J. After a certification hearing, the family court ordered J.T.J. transferred to the court of general jurisdiction. On appeal, J.T.J. argued that the family court erred in entering its certification order because the transfer of jurisdiction of a juvenile is not permitted to allow prosecution under the general law upon the filing of a motion to modify. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that J.T.J. was not prejudiced, and therefore, relief under plain error review was unavailable. View "In re J.T.J." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court finding that Juvenile committed acts that would constituted first-degree statutory sodomy if committed by an adult, holding that the circuit court erroneously declared and applied the law in admitting two-way video testimony, in violation of Juvenile's right to confrontation.Prior to his adjudication hearing, Juvenile filed an objection to a virtual adjudication and request to appear in person, arguing that he had a constitutional and statutory right to face-to-face confrontation of witnesses against him. The objection was overruled, and the court held the hearing in a "hybrid" format that utilized videoconferencing technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the hearing, the circuit court sustained the allegation of first-degree statutory sodomy beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the circuit court's general statements concerning COVID-19 did not satisfy the requisite standard for admitting two-way video testimony, in violation of Juvenile's confrontation rights. View "In re C.A.R.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court finding that J.A.T. committed acts that would constitute first-degree assault and armed criminal action if committed by an adult, holding that requiring J.A.T. to attend the adjudication hearing via two-way live video violated his constitutional rights to due process and confrontation.While J.A.T. repeatedly asserted his right to be physically present at his adjudication hearing to defend himself, the circuit court required J.A.T. to attend his adjudication hearing via two-way video to limit the exposure of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding (1) generalized concerns about the COVID-19 virus may not override a juvenile's due process right to be physically present for his juvenile adjudication hearing at which his guilt or innocence will be determined; and (2) the circuit court erred in requiring J.A.T.'s attendance and participation via two-way video, in violation of J.A.T.'s due process right to be physically present at his adjudication hearing. View "In re J.A.T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court retransferred this case to the court of appeals after the juvenile division dismissed a juvenile petition and transferred jurisdiction over D.E.G., a juvenile, to a court of general jurisdiction, holding that a juvenile has the statutory right to appeal from any final juvenile division judgment.A Juvenile Officer filed a petition alleging that D.E.G. required care and treatment because he committed conduct that, had he been an adult, would have constituted first-degree assault and armed criminal action. After a hearing, the juvenile court dismissed the juvenile petition and transferred jurisdiction over D.E.G. to a court of general jurisdiction. D.E.G. appealed to the court of appeals, and the Supreme Court granted transfer. The Supreme Court retransferred this case to the court of appeals for its review of the underlying merits of the juvenile division's judgment, holding (1) a juvenile may appeal from a final judgment in the juvenile division, including the juvenile division's decision to dismiss a case from its jurisdiction following a Mo. Rev. Stat. 211.071 hearing; and (2) In re T.J.H., 479 S.W.2d 433 (Mo banc 1972), and all other cases holding a juvenile's dismissal from a juvenile division's jurisdiction may be challenged only in a court of general jurisdiction are overruled and should no longer be followed. View "In re D.E.G." on Justia Law

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In 1983, Carr was convicted capital murder for killing his brother, stepmother, and stepsister when he was 16 years old. He was sentenced to three concurrent terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years. His sentences were imposed without any consideration of his youth. The Missouri Supreme Court granted his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. His sentences violate the Eighth Amendment because, following the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life without parole pursuant to mandatory sentencing schemes that preclude consideration of the offender’s youth and attendant circumstances. Carr was sentenced under a mandatory sentencing scheme that afforded no opportunity to consider his age, maturity, limited control over his environment, the transient characteristics attendant to youth, or his capacity for rehabilitation. Carr must be resentenced so his youth and other attendant circumstances surrounding his offense can be taken into consideration to ensure he will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment. View "Carr v. Wallace" on Justia Law

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Willbanks was 17 years old when he was charged with kidnapping, first-degree assault, two counts of first-degree robbery, and three counts of armed criminal action, based on a carjacking. He was convicted and sentenced to consecutive prison terms of 15 years for the kidnapping count, life for the assault count, 20 years for each of the two robbery counts, and 100 years for each of the three armed criminal action counts. On appeal, he argued his sentences, in the aggregate, will result in the functional equivalent of a life without parole sentence and that Missouri’s mandatory minimum parole statutes and regulations violate his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment in light of the Supreme Court holding in Graham v. Florida (2010). The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Missouri’s mandatory minimum parole statutes and regulations are constitutionally valid under Graham. Graham held that the Eighth Amendment barred sentencing a juvenile to a single sentence of life without parole for a nonhomicide offense. Graham did not address juveniles who were convicted of multiple nonhomicide offenses and received multiple fixed-term sentences. View "Willbanks v. Missouri Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with first degree assault and an associated armed criminal action count under Mo. Rev. Stat. 571.015.1. Defendant, who was a juvenile at the time of the offenses, moved to dismiss the armed criminal action charge on the ground that the application of the sentencing provisions of section 571.015.1 to juvenile offenders is unconstitutional. The trial court agreed with Defendant, concluding that section 571.015.1 is unconstitutional as applied to all juvenile offenders and declared unconstitutional the three-year mandatory minimum incarceration requirement for juveniles who are certified to stand trial as adults. The State subsequently filed this interlocutory appeal challenging the trial court’s determination regarding the constitutional validity of section 571.015.1. The Supreme Court dismissed the State’s appeal, holding that the State has no right to appeal this interlocutory decision under section 547.200.1, nor does the trial court’s decision constitute a final judgment from which the State is entitled to appeal under section 547.200.2. View "State v. Smiley" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a juvenile, was convicted of first-degree attempted rape. The juvenile court ordered that Appellant register on the juvenile sex offender registry. Appellant appealed, arguing that ordering him to register as a sexual offender for his lifetime, pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 211.425 and 589.400.1(6), violated his constitutional rights. The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s claims without prejudice, holding that Appellant’s challenge to the enforcement of section 589.400.1(6), which was not made part of the judgment against Appellant, was not ripe for review, and the lack of justiciability precluded relief in this action. View "S.C. v. Juvenile Officer" on Justia Law