Justia Washington Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Juvenile Law
Washington v. Delbosque
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
Washington v. B.O.J.
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
Washington v. A.M.
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
Washington v. T.J.S.-M.
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
In re Pers. Restraint Petition of Meippen
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
Washington v. Gilbert
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
Washington v. Bassett
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
Washington v. Watkins
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
Washington v. Scott
This case addressed the adequacy of the parole remedy available under RCW 9.94A.730, the Miller "fix" statute. Jai'Mar Scott was convicted by a jury in 1990 of first degree premeditated murder for killing his neighbor, a 78-year-old-woman who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Scott was 17 years old when he committed the murder. The juvenile court declined jurisdiction, and Scott was tried, convicted, and sentenced as an adult. At sentencing, the parties agreed that the standard range was 240 to 320 months, with 240 months being the mandatory minimum sentence that could be imposed. The State requested an exceptional sentence above the standard range. The defense requested the low end of the standard range. The trial court sentenced Scott to an exceptional sentence of 900 months based on four independent findings: (1) that Scott's conduct constituted deliberate cruelty, (2) that his conduct was an abuse of trust, (3) that the crime involved multiple injuries, and (4) that the victim was particularly vulnerable. On direct appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the 900-month sentence imposed was not clearly excessive because the "aggravating factors are both numerous and individually and collectively egregious." The Court of Appeals also rejected Scott's assertion that his exceptional sentence was improper in light of his youth at the time of the crime. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed: consistent with the federal Supreme Court’s decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), the Washington Court held that RCW 9.94A.730's parole provision was an adequate remedy for a Miller violation, rendering unnecessary the resentencing of a defendant who long ago received a de facto life sentence as a juvenile. View "Washington v. Scott" on Justia Law
Washington v. Bacon
Evan Bacon, a juvenile, pleaded guilty to second degree robbery and received a suspended disposition. The State challenged the juvenile court's authority to enter such a disposition, arguing that the Juvenile Justice Act of 1977 (JJA), chapter 13.40 RCW, does not give trial courts the statutory authority to suspend juvenile dispositions (except in specific situations that are absent here). The Court of Appeals agreed, and so did the Washington Supreme Court. The Court therefore affirmed, holding that juvenile court judges lack statutory authority to suspend JJA dispositions, even manifest injustice JJA dispositions, unless the disposition fits under one of the specifically listed exemptions in RCW 13.40.160(10). View "Washington v. Bacon" on Justia Law