Articles Posted in Juvenile Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner’s petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 arguing that because he had been “lawfully committed to the Department of Youth Services” at the time he committed the crime of murder, he was entitled to a transfer hearing pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 61, which was then in effect. The single justice concluded that Petitioner was not entitled to a transfer hearing because, when the murder occurred in 1995, a seventeen-year-old was an adult in the eyes of the juvenile and criminal law. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) because a seventeen-year-old was not, at the relevant time, considered a “child,” the juvenile court did not have jurisdiction over the matter; and (2) the fact that Petitioner had previously been committed to the Department was of no relevance because Petitioner would not have been subject to the juvenile court’s jurisdiction in any event. View "Elliot v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice denying Petitioner’s petition filed under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 arguing that when the Commonwealth seeks to indict a juvenile, the grand jury must be instructed on the basic differences between juvenile and adult brains. Petitioner based his argument on the court’s decision in Commonwealth v. Walczak, 463 Mass. 808 (2012), which requires that a grand jury be instructed on the elements of murder and the significance of mitigating circumstances and defenses when the Commonwealth seeks to indict a juvenile for murder. The single justice denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner’s arguments in support of his petition were unavailing. View "Cepeda v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The phrase “serious bodily harm” in the youthful offender statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 54 contemplates harm to human beings, not animals. A grand jury returned two youthful offender indictments against Juvenile, charging him with cruelty to animals and bestiality. The juvenile court allowed Juvenile’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the phrase “serious bodily harm” in the youthful offender statute refers only to human victims. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the “serious bodily harm” referenced in the statute does not apply to animals, and therefore, Juvenile’s conduct did not meet the requirements of the statute. View "Commonwealth v. J.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court denying, without a hearing, a juvenile’s petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. The juvenile was charged with making a bomb threat. A judge in the juvenile court arraigned the juvenile under the belief that she lacked authority to consider a motion to dismiss the complaint prior to arraignment. Upon reconsideration, the judge determined that she did have authority to dismiss before arraignment, vacated the arraignment of the juvenile, and directed the probation department to expunge the juvenile court’s activity record information. Thereafter, the judge again reversed herself, reinstated the juvenile’s arraignment and vacated the expungement order. The juvenile sought relief from this interlocutory ruling pursuant to this Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circumstances of this case did not entitle the juvenile as a matter of right to invoke the court’s extraordinary power under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Benjamin B. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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One year ago, in Deal v. Commissioner of Correction, 475 Mass. 307 (2016) (Deal I), the Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the procedure used by the Department of Correction to determine the security classification of juvenile homicide offenders violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 72B, as amended by St. 2014 ch. 189, 2, which prohibits the Department from categorically barring juvenile homicide offenders from being placed in minimum security facilities. Since then, the Department has developed a modified process for classifying juvenile homicide offenders. Petitioners - juvenile homicide offenders who were also petitioners in Deal I - challenged that modified process in this case. The Supreme Court held that, after applying the holding in Deal I, the Department continued to fall short of the requirements of section 72B where the Department’s written explanations for blocking the majority of objectively qualifying juvenile homicide offenders from placement in a minimum security facility do not go far enough to ensure that the classification procedure is actually individualized and that no juvenile homicide offender is categorically barred from classification to a minimum security facility. View "Deal v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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A juvenile, who has been indicted as a youthful offender, is not entitled as of right to interlocutory review of a denial of a motion to dismiss that indictment. The grand jury returned a youthful offender indictment against Juvenile, charging her with rape of a child. Juvenile moved to dismiss the indictment for lack of probable cause. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the juvenile court judge’s order denying the motion to dismiss, holding (1) Juvenile is not entitled to interlocutory review under these circumstances, but, nevertheless, the court exercises its discretion to reach the merits of the petition; and (2) the youthful offender portion of the indictment was not sufficiently supported by probable cause. View "N.M. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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A juvenile who has been convicted of murder in the first degree, and whose conviction has been affirmed by the Supreme Judicial Court after plenary review, is thereafter subject to the gatekeeper provision of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. Defendant was convicted in 1995 of murder in the first degree. Defendant was seventeen years old when the killing occurred and was considered an adult for purposes of the criminal proceedings. In 2013, Defendant filed a motion for a new trial. A judge denied the motion but resentenced Defendant to life with the possibility of parole because Defendant was under the age of eighteen at the time of the killing. Thereafter, Defendant filed an application pursuant to the gatekeeper provision of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E seeking leave to appeal the denial of his motion for a new trial. At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court was whether Defendant was subject to the gatekeeper provision since he was no longer sentenced to the most severe sentence recognized in Massachusetts. The court answered that the gatekeeper provision applied to defendants who, like Defendant in this case, have had a direct appeal, have received plenary review, and remain convicted of murder in the first degree. View "Commonwealth v. James" on Justia Law

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Samuel S., a juvenile, was adjudicated a youthful offender and a delinquent juvenile as the result of a single sexual offense. As part of his sentence, Samuel was committed to the Department of Youth Services. The juvenile court judge also ordered Samuel to register as a sex offender and to submit to GPS monitoring, stating that both consequences were “mandatory.” The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judge’s decision, holding (1) the pertinent section of the sex offender registration statute required the judge to make an individualized determination whether Samuel must register as a sex offender because he was not “sentenced to immediate confinement” within the meaning of the statute; and (2) the GPS monitoring statute, as interpreted by the Supreme Judicial Court in Commonwealth v. Hanson H., does not require youthful offenders to submit to GPS monitoring. View "Commonwealth v. Samuel S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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Alexander Soto was a juvenile when he was indicted for murder in the first degree and related offenses. The superior court dismissed the non-murder indictments, concluding that the nonmurder charges must first be brought in the juvenile court by a complaint for delinquency or a youthful offender indictment prior to joinder with the murder indictments. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order allowing Soto’s motion to dismiss the non-murder indictments, holding that, when a juvenile is indicted for murder, non-murder offenses that are properly joined with the murder indictment must be brought in the superior court. View "Commonwealth v. Soto" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, Timothy Deal, Siegfried Golston, and Jeffrey Roberio, were juvenile homicide offenders serving mandatory indeterminate life sentences, and who had a constitutional right to a "meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation." At issue in this case was the manner in which juvenile homicide offenders were classified and placed in Department of Correction (department) facilities. Specifically, the issue was whether the department's practice of using "discretionary override codes" to block qualifying juvenile homicide offenders from placement in a minimum security facility unless and until the individual received a positive parole vote violated: (1) G. L. c. 119, section 72B (as amended by St. 2014, c. 189, section 2); or (2) their right to a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, arts. 12 and 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, or both Constitutions. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the department's current classification practice violated G. L. c. 119, section 72B, because the department's failure to consider a juvenile homicide offender's suitability for minimum security classification on a case-by-case basis amounted to a categorical bar as proscribed by the statute. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the department's practice did not violate petitioners' constitutional right to a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation because there was no constitutionally protected expectation that a juvenile homicide offender would be released to the community after serving a statutorily prescribed portion of his sentence. View "Deal v. Comm'r of Correction" on Justia Law