Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court
by
Petitioners Dwayne Bartholomew and Kurtis Monschke were each convicted of aggravated first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole - a mandatory, nondiscretionary sentence under Washington’s aggravated murder statute. Bartholomew was 20 years old; Monschke was 19. Many years after their convictions, each filed a personal restraint petition (PRP) asking the Washington Supreme Court to consider whether article I, section 14 of the state constitution or the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution permitted a mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentence for youthful defendants like themselves. "[W]hen it comes to mandatory LWOP sentences, [Miller v. United States, 567 U.S. 460 (2012)]'s constitutional guarantee of an individualized sentence - one that considers the mitigating qualities of youth - must apply to defendants at least as old as these defendants were at the time of their crimes." Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted both PRPs and ordered that Bartholomew and Monschke each receive a new sentencing hearing. View "In re Pers. Restraint of Monschke" on Justia Law

by
In 1978, 17-year-old Carl Brooks pleaded guilty to eight counts of first degree robbery, first degree rape, first degree kidnapping, first degree assault, second degree murder, and first degree burglary, all while armed with a deadly weapon. Over the span of three days, Brooks carjacked, robbed, and raped a woman while her son was present; attempted to rob a couple where gunfire between Brooks and the male victim led to the shooting death of the victim’s wife; carjacked and robbed a third woman; and threatened a fourth woman in her home, demanded financial information, and assaulted her. Brooks had prior convictions in both juvenile and adult court. At the time, sentencing in Washington was “indeterminate:” trial courts sentenced offenders to the maximum amount of time that could be served. But the amount of time the offender would actually serve was largely controlled by the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles (parole board) who would set the minimum term, taking into account recommendations by the trial court and prosecutor. The judge ordered five of the life sentences to run concurrently, and the remaining three to run consecutively, effectively sentencing Brooks to four consecutive “blocks” (or groupings) of life sentences. Both the prosecutor and the court recommended that the parole board give Brooks minimum terms of life. Departing from the recommendations slightly, the parole board set minimum terms of 20, 25, 25, and 20 years for the four blocks, for a minimum total of 90 years. Not long after Brooks was sentenced, the Washington legislature replaced the indeterminate sentencing system with a determinate system. For those sentenced under the former indeterminate sentencing system who were still incarcerated, the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB) (the successor to the parole board) was directed to “attempt to make [parole] decisions reasonably consistent” with the Sentencing Reform Act. While Brooks has been serving his time, the United States Supreme Court held that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The Washington Supreme Court determined that by its plain language, RCW 9.94A.730 applies to Brooks’ sentence. The ISRB was ordered to provide Brooks with a hearing under RCW 9.94A.730 that presumed release. Accordingly, the Court granted the Personal Restraint Petitioned, reversed the Court of Appeals, and remanded to the ISRB for further proceedings. View "In re Pers. Restraint of Brooks" on Justia Law

by
In 1994, 17-year-old Cristian J. Delbosque was convicted of aggravated first degree murder and received a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of release. Because he was a juvenile at the time of his offense, Delbosque was resentenced in 2016 in accordance with the Miller-fix statute and received a minimum term of 48 years without the possibility of parole. The Court of Appeals concluded that Delbosque could seek review of his sentence only through a personal restraint petition (PRP), rather than direct appeal, but nevertheless reversed his sentence, holding that the trial court's factual findings were not supported by substantial evidence. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' holding that the sentencing court's findings were not supported by substantial evidence, thus remanding for resentencing was proper. However, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals' holding that Delbosque was not entitled to a direct appeal. View "Washington v. Delbosque" on Justia Law

by
In a moot case of substantial and continuing public interest, a juvenile offender challenges whether her need for treatment was an appropriate basis for imposing a manifest justice disposition. B.O.J. pled guilty to two counts of third degree theft for shoplifting from a grocery store. These offenses subjected her to a "local sanctions" standard sentencing range. In exchange for a plea, the prosecution promised to recommend 6 months of community supervision, 8 hours of community service, credit for time served, release at her sentencing disposition, and no contact with the victims. One month later, the State contended B.O.J. violated the conditions of her release by running away from placement. The State thereafter recommended a manifest justice disposition with confinement in a Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration facility. The trial court stated its findings that both B.O.J.'s need for treatment and the standard sentencing range as too lenient supported the manifest injustice disposition. The Washington Supreme Court determined the trial court's findings were not an appropriate basis for imposing a manifest injustice disposition. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals' holding that B.O.J.'s need for treatment supported the trial court's finding that a standard range disposition would effectuate a manifest injustice. View "Washington v. B.O.J." on Justia Law

by
A.M. (juvenile) appealed an unpublished Court of Appeals decision affirming her conviction for possession of a controlled substance. She argued: (1) it was manifest constitutional error for the trial court to admit a detention center inventory form where she signed a sworn statement indicating that a backpack, which was discovered to contain methamphetamine, was her property because it violated her right against self-incrimination; and (2) the affirmative defense of unwitting possession was an unconstitutional burden-shifting scheme that violated her due process rights. After review, the Washington Supreme Court held the admission of the inventory form was manifest constitutional error because it violated her right against self-incrimination and warranted reversal because it was not harmless error. Because the Court found reversible constitutional error, it declined to consider A.M.'s due process argument. The case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Washington v. A.M." on Justia Law

by
A juvenile challenged his suspended manifest injustice disposition. The Court of Appeals dismissed his claim on ripeness grounds; the juvenile disagreed his claim was not yet ripe. Furthermore, the juvenile argued the trial court applied the wrong standard of proof during his sentencing hearing, and as a result, improperly imposed the manifest injustice disposition. The juvenile was convicted on two counts of unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation, and one count of fourth degree assault without sexual motivation. Since he had no prior criminal history, the State recommended, and the trial court adopted, a manifest injustice disposition of 36 weeks' confinement to be suspended by a special sex offender disposition alternative (SSODA). The parties to this case agreed this case was moot, given the juvenile served his sentence by the time the matter reached the Washington Supreme Court. However, finding the issue presented was one of "continuing and substantial interest," the Washington Supreme Court considered the case, determining that the appropriate standard of proof, as found in controlling Washington case law, was "clear and convincing," or the civil equivalent of the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court held manifest injustice dispositions suspended by SSODA are reviewable when imposed - juveniles do not need to wait for the disposition to be executed before challenging it. Therefore, the Court of Appeals' ruling to the contrary was overturned. The Court affirmed the juvenile's conviction and sentence. View "Washington v. T.J.S.-M." on Justia Law

by
Time Rikat Meippen was a juvenile when he was convicted in adult court of first degree assault, first degree robbery, and second degree unlawful possession of a firearm. The trial court sentenced Meippen to the top of the standard sentencing range and imposed a firearm sentence enhancement. Several years after Meippen's sentencing, the Washington Supreme Court decided Washinton v. Houston-Sconiers, 391 P.3d 409 (2017). Meippen subsequently filed an untimely personal restraint petition (PRP), arguing that Houston-Sconiers constituted a significant and material change in the law that should apply retroactively. Even assuming Meippen could show that Houston-Sconiers was a significant, material change in the law that applied retroactively, the Supreme Court held he was not entitled to collateral relief because he did not demonstrate that any error actually and substantially prejudiced him: the trial court had the discretion to impose a lesser sentence under the Sentencing Reform Act, at the time, and instead sentenced Meippen at the top of the sentencing range. View "In re Pers. Restraint Petition of Meippen" on Justia Law

by
In 1992 when Jeremiah Gilbert was a juvenile, he was charged and convicted of aggravated murder, premeditated murder, and multiple other crimes. He was sentenced to life without parole for the aggravated murder along with a consecutive sentence for the premeditated murder, as required under the laws in effect at that time. When RCW 10.95.035 was enacted, Gilbert became entitled to a new sentencing hearing. During his resentencing, Gilbert argued that the judge should restructure his two sentences such that they would run concurrently. However, the judge ruled that he lacked Statutory authority to address anything other than Gilbert's sentence for aggravated murder and imposed a sentence of 25 years to life, leaving intact the consecutive sentence of 280 months for the premeditated murder conviction. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Washington Supreme Court found that because the judge presiding over Gilbert's resentencing believed he did not have discretion to consider anything other than an adjustment to the aggravated murder sentence, he did not consider whether the mitigating factors of Gilbert's youth might warrant an exceptional sentence. The Court found this to be error: Gilbert was entitled at his resentencing to consideration of an exceptional sentence in light of the potential mitigating factors of his youth. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for that consideration. View "Washington v. Gilbert" on Justia Law

by
When Brian Bassett was 16 years old, he was living in a "shack" with Nicholaus McDonald after Bassett's parents '"kicked [him] out'" of their home. With McDonald's assistance, Bassett snuck back into his home and shot his mother and father. His brother was drowned in the bathtub, an act that McDonald initially confessed to but later blamed on Bassett at trial. Bassett was convicted of three counts of aggravated first degree murder for the deaths of his mother, father, and brother. The judge commented that Bassett was "a walking advertisement" for the death penalty and sentenced him to three consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole. At issue here was the constitutionality of sentencing juvenile offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole or early release. The State appealed a Court of Appeals decision holding that the provision of Washington's Miller-fix statute that allows 16- and 17-year-olds to be sentenced to life without parole violated the Washington Constitution's ban on cruel punishment. The appellate court adopted the categorical approach, rather than Washington's traditional Fain proportionality test, and found that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole or early release constituted cruel punishment. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision and held that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole or early release constitutes cruel punishment and therefore is unconstitutional under article I, section 14 of the Washington Constitution. View "Washington v. Bassett" on Justia Law

by
Sixteen-year-old Tyler Watkins was charged with first degree burglary as an adult. The former RCW 13.04.030(1) (2009) provided that juvenile courts had to automatically decline jurisdiction over 16- and 17-year-olds charged with certain offenses. Watkins argued his due process rights were violated because the automatic decline component of the statute applied without him first having a hearing on whether the juvenile court should have retained jurisdiction. The Washington Supreme Court held the automatic decline did not violate due process because juveniles did not have a constitutional right to be tried in juvenile court. View "Washington v. Watkins" on Justia Law