Articles Posted in Juvenile Law

by
Similar to "Colorado v. Johnson," (2016 CO 69 (2016)), at issue in this case were questions involving what a trial court could order when a juvenile seeks a reverse-transfer of her criminal case from trial court to juvenile court. Defendant Brooke Higgins was a juvenile respondent before a magistrate judge. The district attorney requested, and Higgins' then-defense-counsel agreed to, a state administered mental health assessment of Higgins. Because the parties agreed, the magistrate judge ordered the assessment. Later, in front of a trial court, the DA dismissed the juvenile charges against Higgins and charged her as an adult with two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. Higgins sought, and the trial court granted, a reverse-transfer hearing to determine whether she should remain in adult court. Before that hearing, Higgins, now represented by different counsel, filed a motion to suppress the mental health assessment and disqualify the trial court judge. The trial court denied both requests, holding that the parties stipulated to the assessment, and there was independent statutory authority for the magistrate judge to order the assessment. Higgins appealed, arguing the trial court lacked authority to order a juvenile-charged-as-an-adult to undergo a mental health assessment for a reverse-transfer hearing. The Supreme Court found that based on the facts of this case, Higgins' arguments, while loosely related to those in "Johnson," were hypothetical and premature. The Court therefore vacated the trial court's order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Higgins v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this case were questions involving what a trial court could order when a juvenile seeks a reverse-transfer of her criminal case from trial court to juvenile court. The district attorney directly filed a criminal complaint against defendant Sienna Johnson in trial court, treating her as an adult and charging her with two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Defendant requested a reverse-transfer hearing, and the trial court granted her request. The State appealed, arguing that C.R.S. 19-2-517(3)(b)(VI) (the reverse-transfer statute) required a trial court to evaluate the petitioner's mental health. The DA requested access to defendant's mental health and psychological records and requested a court-ordered mental health assessment. Defendant responded that she should not have to produce the records because she had not waived her psychotherapist-patient privilege in her request for a reverse-transfer, and the statute did not give the trial court authority to order an assessment. The trial court ruled in favor of the DA on both counts. The Supreme Court concluded after review: (1) nothing in the reverse-transfer statute stated that a juvenile waived her psychotherapist-patient privilege by requesting a reverse-transfer hearing, so the trial court could not order her to produce her mental records; and (2) nothing in the statute gave the trial court explicit authority to order the mental health assessment. The case was therefore remanded for further proceedings. View "Johnson v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
In 1997, Frank Vigil, Jr. was convicted of first degree murder for his participation in the kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder of a 14-year-old girl. Vigil was sixteen at the time of the crime. The trial court sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP), because it was the statutorily-mandated sentence for crimes committed between 1990 and 2006. In 2013, Vigil filed a Crim. P. 35(c) motion for post-conviction relief, arguing that his sentence was unconstitutional under "Miller v. Alabama," (132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012)). Finding that Miller applied retroactively to Vigil’s sentence, the trial court granted the motion. The State petitioned pursuant to C.A.R. 50, arguing that "Miller" did not apply retroactively. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that this case was governed by "Jensen v. Colorado," (2015 CO 42), which held that "Miller" did not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review of a final judgment. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court's grant of post-conviction relief. View "Colorado v. Vigil" on Justia Law

by
Three cases concerning juvenile sentencing were consolidated by the Supreme Court for the purpose of this opinion. In each, the Court examined the appropriate remedies for the defendants whose sentences would otherwise be unconstitutional under "Miller v. Alabama," (132 S. CT 2455 (2012)). Under the statutory schemen in place between 1990 and 2006, all three defendants in these cases were given mandatory life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for the crimes they committed as juveniles. Two of the cases, "Colorado v. Tate" and "Banks v. Colorado," came to the Supreme Court on direct review. "Miller" applied to these cases and rendered their sentences unconstitutional. "In order to preserve as much of the legislature’s work as possible, Tate and Banks should be given individualized resentencing hearings that take into account their 'youth and attendant characteristics.'" The third case, "Jensen," was a C.A.R. 50 petition that came on collateral review of a final judgment. Because this case was on collateral review, the issue was whether "Miller" applied retroactively. The Colorado Court found that because the rule announced in "Miller" was procedural rather than substantive, and was not a "watershed" rule of procedure, it did not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review of final judgment. Therefore, "Miller" did not apply to Jensen. View "Colorado v. Tate" on Justia Law

by
The Colorado Supreme Court granted review in two cases to determine what remedy is appropriate for juvenile defendants who were given sentences that would be unconstitutional under the federal Supreme Court's decision in "Miller v. Alabama," (132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012)). The issue in a third case centered on whether that remedy applies retroactively. Tenarro Banks and Michael Quinn Tate, were convicted in 2004 of class 1 felonies for acts committed when they were juveniles. Tate was convicted of felony murder for the stabbing death of a friend's father during a burglary when Tate was sixteen. Banks was convicted of first degree murder for shooting another teenager outside of a house party when he was fifteen. Under the sentencing scheme in place at the time, which governed offenses committed between 1990 and 2006, both Banks and Tate were given mandatory sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole ("LWOP"). While both cases were pending on appeal to the court of appeals, the Supreme Court released its opinion in "Miller." The Miller decision rendered the Colorado statutory scheme for mandatory LWOP in place between 1990 and 2006 unconstitutional as applied to juveniles, including Tate and Banks. The Colorado Court determined that the state legislature had not acted to adopt a new sentencing scheme in light of Miller. The Court therefore remanded these cases for such a determination: if the trial court should determine, after an individualized sentencing process, that LWOP was not warranted, the appropriate sentence (in the absence of legislative action) was life in prison with the possibility of parole after forty years ("LWPP"). This was the sentence that was in place both before and after the mandatory LWOP scheme at issue in this case—that is, before 1990 and after 2006. Eric Jensen was convicted in 1998 of first degree murder for helping a friend kill the friend's mother and dispose of the body. He committed this crime when he was seventeen. Under the sentencing scheme in place at the time, Jensen was given a mandatory sentence to LWOP. On direct appeal, the court of appeals affirmed the judgment. The Colorado Court denied Jensen's certiorari petition, and the judgment became final. Jensen later filed two Crim.P. 35(c) motions for post-conviction relief, the second of which was at issue here: the trial court denied the motion, and Jensen appealed to the court of appeals. While that appeal was pending, the Supreme Court released Miller. Jensen moved for post-conviction relief in light of Miller. The issue Jensen's case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether Miller's holding was retroactive to Jensen's case. The Court concluded that the new rule announced in Miller was procedural, rather than substantive, in nature, and that therefore it did not apply retroactively. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court's order denying his motion for post-conviction relief. View "Colorado v. Tate" on Justia Law

by
The State argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that the trial court erred in ruling that "Miller v. Alabama," (132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012)) applied retroactively to cases on collateral review of a final judgment. Defendant Frank Vigil, Jr. Filed a Crim. P. 35(c) motion for post-conviction relief of his final judgment, arguing that his sentence was unconstitutional under "miller." The trial court applied "Miller" retroactively and granted his motion. The Supreme Court held that "Miller" did not apply retroactively, and reversed. View "Colorado v. Vigil" on Justia Law

by
Defendants Tenarro Banks and Michael Tate were convicted in 2004 of class 1 felonies for acts committed when they were juveniles. The Supreme Court granted review in defendants' respective cases to determine what remedy was appropriate in light of the federal Supreme Court's decision in "Miller v. Alabama," (132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012)). Under the sentencing scheme in place at the time (which governed offenses committed between 1990 and 2006), both Banks and Tate were given mandatory sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP). While both cases were pending on appeal to the court of appeals, the Supreme Court released its opinion in "Miller." The "Miller" decision rendered the Colorado statutory scheme for mandatory LWOP in place from 1990-2006 as unconstitutional as applied to juveniles. Because the Colorado legislature has not acted to adopt a new sentencing scheme in light of "Miller," so the Colorado Supreme Court was tasked with "filling the gap." For Tate and Banks, the Supreme Court remanded the cases for the trial court to determine wither LWOP was an appropriate sentence under "Miller;" if the trial court determined LWOP was not warranted, life with the possibility of parole (LWPP) was the proper sentence. A third case before the Court on collateral review centered on whether "Miller" applied retroactively: Brendan Jensen was convicted in 1998 of first degree murder while he was seventeen. Under the sentencing scheme in place at the time, his sentence was LWOP. The Court held that the rule announced in "Miller" was procedural rather than substantive in nature, and therefore did not apply retroactively. For Jensen, the Court affirmed the trial court's order denying his motion for post-conviction relief. View "Colorado v. Tate" on Justia Law

by
In an interlocutory appeal, the State appealed a trial court order that suppressed statements defendant-appellee N.A.S. made to police. The trial court found that N.A.S. was in custody when he made the statements, he did not waive his Miranda rights "knowingly, voluntarily or intelligently," and that the statements were involuntary. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that in the totality of the circumstances of this case, N.A.S. was not in custody when he made his statements, and that he spoke voluntarily. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court's suppression order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. N.A.S." on Justia Law

by
A Jefferson County Sheriff Deputy was transporting two juveniles from a court hearing. The two were seated in the rear of the transport van, handcuffed. En route, another driver allegedly turned into an intersection without yielding and collided with the transport van. As a result of the collision, the juveniles sustained multiple injuries. The juveniles sued the County, alleging the deputy transporting them was negligent. The County claimed it was immune from suit. The trial court denied the County's motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed. Upon review of the County's appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in finding allegations of negligence alone were sufficient to overcome the statutory grant of immunity and the presumption of good faith afforded to law enforcement. The Court vacated the trial court's order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Young v. Jefferson County" on Justia Law

by
The State petitioned for relief from an in limine ruling of the juvenile court allowing the introduction of testimony by the juvenile’s psychological expert without regard for the court-ordered examination mandated by section 16-8-107, C.R.S. (2013). The juvenile court reasoned that in the absence of any provision of the Criminal Procedure Code specifying otherwise, the requirements of section 16-8-107 did not apply to delinquency proceedings. Finding no error in the juvenile court's analysis, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Colorado in the Interest of A.A." on Justia Law