Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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A juvenile male, B.N.M., was accused of participating in the murder of his girlfriend’s parents when he was fifteen years old. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma transferred him to adult status, allowing him to be prosecuted as an adult. B.N.M. challenged this decision, arguing that the district court made errors in its analysis and that transferring him for adult prosecution was unconstitutional due to the severe penalties for first-degree murder.The district court's decision was based on the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which outlines factors to consider when deciding whether to transfer a juvenile for adult prosecution. The magistrate judge found that the nature of the offense and the availability of programs to treat the juvenile’s behavioral problems weighed in favor of transfer. The magistrate judge noted that if B.N.M. were adjudicated as a juvenile, he would be released at twenty-one, and there was a low likelihood of sufficient rehabilitation by that age. The district court adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation, despite B.N.M.'s objections.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reviewed the case. B.N.M. argued that the district court erred by misattributing testimony from the government’s expert to his expert and by not properly considering his role as a follower in the crimes. He also argued that the district court improperly shifted the burden of proof regarding the availability of community programs for his rehabilitation. The Tenth Circuit found that the misattribution of testimony did not affect the outcome and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in weighing the factors. The court also held that B.N.M.'s constitutional argument was not ripe for review. Consequently, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to transfer B.N.M. for adult prosecution. View "United States v. B.N.M." on Justia Law

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Defendant Paul Gallimore pleaded guilty to committing three robberies on three consecutive days in different locations at age 16. These convictions pushed his criminal history category to VI under USSG § 4B1.4(c)(2) which, in turn, set his guideline imprisonment range at 188 to 235 months. The statutory range, because of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) enhancement, was fifteen years to life. The ACCA sentencing enhancement applied to defendants with three prior convictions for committing violent felonies on separate occasions. Defendant appealed the calculation of the sentence he received (200 months imprisonment), arguing he committed these robberies on one occasion (which would have reduced the range of his sentence). The Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding that the time between each robbery and their different locations both decisively differentiated "occasions" here. View "United States v. Gallimore" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe and two boys were accused of killing Doe’s parents. Even though Doe was a juvenile at the time of the murders, the government charged her with two counts of first-degree murder. The government successfully moved to transfer her case to adult court, where the punishments for first-degree murder are death or mandatory life imprisonment without parole. These punishments would be unconstitutional when applied to a juvenile. Doe argued she could not be transferred to adult court because, even if guilty, there was no statutory punishment available for her alleged crime. She also argued the district court used an incorrect legal standard for transfer from juvenile to adult court and improperly weighed the relevant factors for transfer. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found her constitutional argument was not ripe, the district court applied the correct legal standard, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in weighing the transfer factors. The Court therefore affirmed the district court’s transfer of Doe’s case from juvenile to adult court. View "United States v. Doe" on Justia Law

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After committing crimes when he was seventeen years old, defendant Atorrus Rainer was convicted of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, one count of first-degree burglary, and one count of aggravated robbery. For these crimes, the district court sentenced Mr. Rainer to 224 years in prison. On direct appeal, the convictions were affirmed. But the Colorado Court of Appeals ordered modification of the sentences, concluding that the prison terms for attempted first-degree murder and first-degree assault should have run concurrently, rather than consecutively, because the crimes could have been based on identical evidence. The Colorado Court of Appeals thus modified Mr. Rainer’s sentences to run for 112 years. After the direct appeal, the Supreme Court held in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), that the Eighth Amendment prohibited life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of nonhomicide crimes. Under Graham, these juveniles were entitled to a meaningful opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. Defendant sought habeas relief, claiming the State of Colorado deprived him of this opportunity by imposing the 112-year sentence for the crimes he committed as a juvenile. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the State provided defendant with the required opportunity through the combination of the Juveniles convicted as Adults Program, and the general parole program. View "Rainer v. Hansen" on Justia Law

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A.S. was adjudicated a juvenile delinquent under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (“FJDA”) after the district court concluded that, when he was seventeen years old, he knowingly engaged in a sexual act with a victim, K.P., while she was incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct. The court ordered A.S. to be committed to eighteen months’ custodial detention to be followed by twenty-four months’ juvenile-delinquent supervision. On appeal, A.S. raised three challenges: (1) the district court erred in limiting cross-examination and excluding extrinsic evidence concerning a prior allegation of sexual assault that K.P. made; (2) the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that he knew that K.P. was incapable of appraising the nature of the sexual conduct, which he says was an element of the offense; and (3) the district court erred in imposing a dispositional sentence on him of custodial detention. The Tenth Circuit concluded: (1) the district court’s actions accorded with the Federal Rules of Evidence and did not violate A.S.’s constitutional rights; (2) there was ample evidence for a reasonable factfinder to determine A.S. engaged in sexual conduct with K.P. while he knew she was asleep and drunk; and (3) the sentence did not constitute an abuse of the district court's broad sentencing discretion. Thus, the Tenth Circuit affirmed judgment. View "United States v. A.S." on Justia Law

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Defendants Keith Daron Syling, Roger Schoolcraft, David Kunihiro and Audra Smith were officers or employees of the Alamogordo Police Department (APD) who were allegedly responsible for the public release of information regarding the arrest of a juvenile, A.N, in violation of New Mexico law. Plaintiffs A.N. and her mother, Katherine Ponder brought this action against Defendants and others, asserting claims under federal and state law. Defendants appealed the district court’s denial of their motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 based on qualified immunity. The Tenth Circuit concluded Defendants were on notice they would violate A.N.’s right to equal protection under the law if they intentionally and without a rational basis differentiated between her and similarly situated juvenile arrestees in applying New Mexico’s laws against the disclosure of juvenile arrest and delinquency records. As a result, “any reasonable official in [Defendants’] shoes would have understood that he was violating” Plaintiffs’ equal protection rights by these actions. Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court's judgment denying them qualified immunity on Plaintiffs' equal protection claim. View "A.N. v. Alamogordo Police Department" on Justia Law

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E.F. pleaded guilty to a number of federal offenses pursuant to a plea agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the government agreed that it would recommend a sentence below the one recommended by the United States Sentencing Guidelines. As a result of that agreement, the district court significantly reduced E.F.’s advisory guidelines range to approximately half the term of imprisonment recommended by the Guidelines. E.F. was ultimately sentenced to the mandatory minimum sentence. The district court noted it would have preferred to sentence E.F. to a lesser sentence, but it was unable to do so in light of the government’s refusal to file a motion for a further reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3553(e). On appeal of the sentence, E.F. argued: (1) the government breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied in the plea agreement when it refused to file a 3553(e) motion; (2) the government’s refusal was not rationally related to a legitimate government end and that enforcing the plea agreement would result in a miscarriage of justice; and (3) the sentence was substantively unreasonable. The district court first considered whether United States v. Doe, 865 F.3d 1295 (10th Cir. 2017), applied. The court concluded that while Doe applied, E.F. failed to satisfy the Doe requirements that would trigger good-faith review by the district court. Thus, the plea agreement was not subject to good-faith review. The Tenth Circuit concurred with the district court’s analysis under Doe and affirmed its conclusion that the government’s decision not to file a 3553(e) motion was not subject to good-faith review. View "In re: Sealed Opinion" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted fourteen-year-old Lawrence Montoya for the New Year’s Day murder of a teacher from his school. After serving over thirteen years in prison, Montoya brought post-conviction claims for ineffective assistance of counsel and actual innocence. He sued several detectives involved in the investigation and trial, claiming they were responsible for his wrongful conviction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983. Specifically, Montoya claimed the Detectives instigated a malicious prosecution against him, coerced his confession in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and subjected him to false arrest. The Detectives appealed when the district court held qualified immunity and absolute testimonial immunity did not shield the Detectives from liability and denied their motion to dismiss. After review, the Tenth Circuit held qualified immunity indeed shielded the Detectives from liability for Montoya’s malicious prosecution claim; both qualified immunity and absolute testimonial immunity barred Montoya’s Fifth Amendment claim. As for Montoya’s false arrest claim, the Court determined it lacked jurisdiction to consider whether or not qualified immunity applied. View "Montoya v. Vigil" on Justia Law