Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Defendant was convicted of kidnapping Maria Eloiza and her five-year-old son, resulting in the deaths of both. Defendant was 16-years-old at the time he committed the offense, and the district court sentenced him to the statutorily mandated term of life imprisonment. The Supreme Court subsequently held in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 465 (2012), that a mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. Based on Miller, the district court granted defendant's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. After the district court sentenced defendant to 50 years' imprisonment, defendant appealed.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not clearly err in finding defendant competent to proceed with resentencing. In this case, the district court was entitled to base its competency determination on the BOP doctor's psychological evaluation concluding that defendant had been restored to competency. The court also held that the district court did not plainly err by calculating an advisory Guidelines range of life imprisonment under USSG 2A1.1; the district court considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors, including defendant's youth; and defendant's sentence, a downward variance from the Guidelines range of life, was not substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Barraza" on Justia Law

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Ali shot and killed three people during an attempted robbery in Minneapolis. He was given three consecutive life sentences, each permitting his early release after 30 years so that Ali must remain in prison for at least 90 years. Relying on recent Supreme Court precedent, Ali argued that the Eighth Amendment forbids life-without-parole sentences for juvenile defendants unless they are irreparably corrupt and that a sentencing court must conduct a hearing to consider the juvenile defendant’s youth as a mitigating factor before imposing a life-without-parole sentence. Ali claimed his sentence was the “functional equivalent” of life-without-parole. The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected Ali’s argument. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of Ali’s petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Ali’s case is distinguishable from the Supreme Court cases; Ali received three life sentences for three separate murders, each permitting possible release. Ali does not face a life-without-parole sentence and the Supreme Court has not “clearly established” that its ruling apply to consecutive sentences functionally equivalent to life-without-parole. View "Ali v. Roy" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order transferring defendant for criminal prosecution as an adult under 18 U.S.C. 5032. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by deciding to transfer where the district court made specific findings with respect to each statutory factor. In this case, the juvenile's age, nature of the offenses, his role in the offenses, and his intellect and maturity weighed in favor of transfer. The court also held that it was not required to hold an evidentiary hearing where the district court accepted the magistrate judge's credibility findings and independently weighed the statutory factors. View "United States v. Juvenile Male" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit granted en banc review and held that a state juvenile delinquency adjudication is a "prior conviction" under 18 U.S.C. 2252(b)(1). The en banc court held that, because federal law distinguishes between criminal convictions and juvenile delinquency adjudications, and because section 2252(b)(1) mentions only convictions, juvenile delinquency adjudications do not trigger that statute's 15-year mandatory minimum sentence. Accordingly, the en banc court vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Gauld" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit held that Nebraska's Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 29-4003(1)(a)(iv), did not apply to A.W., as a juvenile delinquent that engaged in conduct constituting first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota. Under both Minnesota and Nebraska law, an adjudication of delinquency was not a criminal proceeding, nor did it result in a conviction; the plain and ordinary meaning of "sex offender" was to be ascertained with respect to Nebraska law; and "sex offender" was ordinarily understood as a person who has been convicted of a crime involving unlawful sexual conduct. View "A.W. v. Wood" on Justia Law