Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
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Applicant Steven Thomas was 16 when he committed capital murder. When he was 19, the juvenile court waived its exclusive jurisdiction and transferred Applicant’s case to district court, where Applicant pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of murder. Decades passed. Applicant did not appeal his transfer or his case or file a writ of habeas corpus. Then, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided Moon v. Texas, 451 S.W.3d 28 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014), which held that if an order waiving juvenile jurisdiction did not contain factually-supported, case-specific findings, then the order is invalid, and the district court never acquires jurisdiction. Based upon Moon, Applicant argued that because the order waiving juvenile jurisdiction did not contain factually-supported, case-specific findings, it was invalid, and thus the district court never acquired jurisdiction. The Court of Criminal Appeals found that the type of findings Moon required were neither grounded in the text of the transfer statute, nor in Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541 (1966), the Supreme Court precedent that it purportedly relied upon in Moon. "Requiring them may be good policy, but the lack of case-specific findings has nothing to do with jurisdiction, fundamental constitutional rights, or even the transfer statute itself. The juvenile court’s transfer order in this case may have lacked factually-supported, case-specific findings, but that did not make that order invalid or deprive the district court of jurisdiction." Consequently, the Court determined Applicant was not entitled to habeas corpus relief. View "Ex parte Steven Thomas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Michael Herring was 16 years old when he was arrested for, and charged with, aggravated robbery. Because he was a juvenile, he was given his Miranda warnings by a magistrate. There was conflicting testimony as to whether two armed police officers were present when appellant was given these warnings. After the warnings, appellant was questioned by two police officers, and he confessed to the charged robbery, as well as other robberies and burglaries. The confession was reduced to writing by one of the officers, and appellant signed it. At trial, appellant filed a motion to suppress the signed statement, and argued, among other things, that the statement was taken in violation of Family Code Section 51.095 because armed law-enforcement officers were present when he was given the magistrate's warnings. The motion was denied, and a jury found appellant guilty, sentencing him to 20 years' confinement. Appellant appealed and asserted that the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress. The court of appeals affirmed appellant's conviction. Appellant argued one issue to the Supreme Court: whether Section 51.095(a)(1)(A) permitted law-enforcement officers to be present when a juvenile is initially read his rights. The Court concluded that Section 51.095(a)(1)(A) does not prohibit the presence of law-enforcement officers, and accordingly affirmed. View "Herring v. Texas" on Justia Law