Saturday, March 11, 2006

Juvenile Delinquency

D.T. v. State (In re D.T.), 2006 UT App 132

D.T. challenged the sufficiency of the evidence in his adjudication for sexual abuse of a child. He was alleged to have fingered a girl in a hot tub at the Ogden Athletic Club. The juvenile court noted that "[b]asically this [case] is her testimony against his" and that "it would look to the surrounding circumstances and what the other witnesses and evidence corroborated." It then explained that the victim's testimony was corroborated by the statements from D.T. and D.T.'s brother.

The court of appeals held that the juvenile court explanation "demonstrates that it carefully weighed each piece of evidence and determined beyond a reasonable doubt that L.T. was telling the truth."


K.M. v. State (In re K.M.), 2006 UT App 74

This case was a powder keg of issues that was diffused by K.M.’s inadequate briefing of the interesting issues.

K.M. was fourteen when she unexpectedly gave birth in her bathroom at home. She hid the baby in the bathroom windowsill and her mom, unaware that she had given birth, took her to the hospital. The baby was later found dead in the windowsill.

One day into a murder trial in juvenile court, K.M. agreed to admit to child abuse homicide, a third degree felony. She later moved to withdraw her admission, but the juvenile court denied the motion. On appeal, the court of appeals determined that she had failed to preserve most of her arguments and had not adequately briefed plain error. So the court only reviewed her admission to determine if it was knowing and voluntary. The court determined that her admission was knowing and voluntary, with Judge Orme dissenting.

The one helpful point from this case, on which both the majority and the dissent agreed, is that case law analyzing rule 11, Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure, which governs the adult guilty plea colloquy, is applicable to rule 25, Utah Rules of Juvenile Procedure, which governs a juvenile admission colloquy. Where the majority and the dissent disagree is on whether compliance with rule 25 is sufficient to make an admission knowing and voluntary, or whether the juvenile court should consider some additional circumstances. The dissent argued the court must consider several additional factors such as: (1) the age of the juvenile, (2) the relative intelligence of the juvenile, (3) the juvenile’s experience with the legal system, (4) the juvenile’s emotional state at the time of the admission, and (5) the outside pressure of parents, counselors, attorneys, etc. on the juvenile’s decision.


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