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December 12, 2014

Texas top court rules juveniles getting transferred to adult court too readily

As reported in this Texas Tribune article, headlined "CCA Offers Guidance to Courts Trying Teens as Adults," the top criminal court in Texas issued a significant ruling earlier this week about bringing juvenile offenders into the adult system. Here are the details:

A Houston teen sentenced to 30 years in prison should not have been tried as an adult, the state's highest criminal court ruled Wednesday in a decision calling for greater judicial scrutiny before young defendants are transferred into the adult court system.

"The transfer of a juvenile offender from juvenile court to criminal court for prosecution as an adult should be regarded as the exception, not the rule," Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Tom Price wrote in the majority opinion, agreeing with an earlier ruling by the 1st Court of Appeals in Houston....

Trial judges can transfer a juvenile's case to adult court after considering criteria including whether the crime was against a person or property, the juvenile defendant's maturity level and previous criminal record. The court's ruling zeroes in on how prosecutors prove a juvenile has sufficient maturity to be tried as an adult. In Moon's case, prosecutors called one witness, the arresting officer.

In Wednesday's opinion, Price, citing a 1995 change in the law, said that a juvenile court should "take pains to 'show its work' in coming to that certification decision.

"This legislative purpose is not well served by a transfer order lacking in specifics that the appellate court is forced to speculate as to the juvenile court’s reasons for finding transfer to be appropriate or the facts the juvenile court found to substantiate those reasons," Price wrote.

The Houston Chronicle has reported that when Moon was certified, Harris County judges were granting prosecutors' requests for certifications about 95 percent of the time.

The Court of Criminal Appeals' decision sends Moon's case back to Harris County, where a spokesman for the prosecutor's office said they were "disappointed" about the court's ruling. "But we're going to revisit the case, and there's a possibility we will try to recertify him," said Jeff McShan, spokesman for the Harris County district attorney's office.

"It's a nice Christmas present," said Jack Carnegie, Moon's attorney, adding that the ruling gives trial courts better guidance on what they need to do certify juvenile defendants. "This is a roadmap for how you have to do it now."

The full 40-page Texas ruling in this case is available at this link.

December 12, 2014 at 09:20 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"Price, citing a 1995 change in the law"

WOW. So it took them nearly TWENTY YEARS to do the right thing. I wonder how many people have already served their sentences?

Posted by: Daniel | Dec 12, 2014 1:59:04 PM

Lawyer dumbasses do not believe their own eyes. People older than 14 are adults, in every way save experience. That is because of the lawyer dumbass infantilization of our population by a baby sitting service called high school. And ultra-violent career criminals do not attend high school because it would cut into profits too deeply anyway.

As to the Supreme Court lawyer dumbass term, impetuous, whether true or not, adolescents commit fewer crimes than adults.

The Supreme Court lawyer dumbasses are so incredibly stupid, I insist they have lead levels drawn. 1L cannot be so powerful as to drop IQ into the MR range on its own. There have to be other powerful toxic factors.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 13, 2014 1:43:34 AM

i really loved this part!

""The transfer of a juvenile offender from juvenile court to criminal court for prosecution as an adult should be regarded as the exception, not the rule," Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Tom Price wrote in the majority opinion, agreeing with an earlier ruling by the 1st Court of Appeals in Houston....""

funny but wasn't that the SAME THING they said about the plea bargain when it was first allowed. Same with RICO and any number of gov't laws.

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 13, 2014 7:16:01 PM

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