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OJD Case Law Corner Vol. 12




No. COA23-21

Guilford County

19 December 2023

Unpublished Opinion

 

Summary of the Case: The youth, a 16-year-old male, was charged with misdemeanor assault and felony possession of a stolen firearm in Greensboro. The charges arose from an allegation that the youth had pointed a rifle at his stepfather, who called the police. Police only located the rifle under a pile of clothing in the youth’s bedroom after questioning the youth multiple times. Evidence was admitted as to the rifle being stolen, but no direct evidence as to the youth’s knowledge of the stolen status of the gun. Trial counsel moved to suppress the youth’s statement as to the location of the gun as well as moved to dismiss for lack of evidence of the youth’s knowledge of the status of the gun. Both motions were denied by the trial court.

 

Issues Affecting Youth: On appeal, the Court reviewed the denial of the motion to dismiss de novo and upheld the decision, citing precedent that “a defendant’s ‘guilty knowledge may be inferred from

incriminating circumstances. . . .’” (internal citations omitted) and finding that “there is substantial evidence supporting the trial court’s determination that M.E.W. had reasonable grounds to believe the property to have been stolen.” (citations omitted)

 

The Court remanded the case for further conclusions of law on the motion to suppress, stating, “we note that the motion to suppress presented the trial court with a couple of issues—a constitutional and statutory challenge. Conducting meaningful appellate review requires the trial court’s rationale underlying its decision to deny the motion to suppress.” (citations omitted) The Court declined to consider the Miranda and Public Safety Doctrine argument presented by the youth without the appropriate conclusions of law by the trial court.

 

State v. Borlase

No. COA22-985

Watauga County

2 January 2024

 

Summary of the Case: Tristan Borlase was 17 years and 11 months old at the time he was charged with the murder of his parents. The State presented evidence that the youth acted with premeditation and deliberation and presented further evidence of the youth’s lack of remorse after the events. Defense presented testimony from various experts and mitigation specialists for consideration during the trial and sentencing phases. After trial and a Miller hearing, he was sentenced to two consecutive LWOP (life without parole) sentences.

 

Issues Affecting Youth: The majority opinion held that the trial considered all evidence presented and properly used its discretion in imposing two LWOP sentences. The court quoted Roper v. Simmons to “reiterate the ‘great difficulty [for the sentencing judge] of distinguishing at this early age between ‘the juvenile offender whose crime reflects unfortunate yet transient immaturity, and the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption,’’” (citations omitted, emphasis in original) placing literal emphasis on the characteristics of the youth at the time of the offense. The court held that “the trial court complied with the holding when it expressly found that there was no likelihood that Defendant would be rehabilitated during confinement.”

 

Judge Arrowood wrote a lengthy dissent (28 of the 44 page opinion), stating that the majority opinion renders meaningless the requirement that it consider the statutory Miller factors “by allowing the trial court to ignore credible evidence.” The dissent details the copious amounts of evidence offered as the circumstances of the youth throughout his life and took much issue with the majority opinion’s consideration of what constituted credible evidence.

 

“Such blatant disregard for precedent demands justification, but the majority offers none. Instead, it wrongly concludes that the sentencing judge considered the evidence presented and complied with the statute. Moreover, rather than acknowledge defendant’s evidence, the majority concentrates on excusing the trial court for its ‘significant consideration’ of the crime when sentencing defendant— ‘despite the fact that the case law warns against such a focus[.]’ In the process, the majority diminishes longstanding concerns surrounding the sentencing of juveniles and the importance of ‘considering an offender’s youth and attendant characteristics before imposing a life without parole sentence.’ (all citations omitted).

 

In re: G.J.W.L.

No. COA23-458

Surry County

2 January 2024

Unpublished Opinion

 

Summary of the Case: “Gregory” was adjudicated responsible for one county of second-degree trespass and one count of disorderly conduct at a school arising out of the youth’s non-compliance with an SRO’s instructions to leave school property. Defense counsel moved to dismiss the disorderly conduct petition at the close of state’s evidence, but the motion was denied. Gregory took the stand to testify, and the trial court did not advise him of his right against self-incrimination. Defense counsel did not renew the prior motion to dismiss at the close of all evidence. The trial court entered a Level 1 disposition with twelve months of probation and community service.

 

Issues Affecting Youth and Youth Defenders: The challenge to the denial of the motion to dismiss was not addressed by the appellate court as the argument was not preserved and appellate review of the issue was waived when the motion to dismiss was not renewed at the close of all evidence.

 

However, the appellate court determined that because the trial court did not engage in any colloquy with Gregory in regard to his privilege against self-incrimination, this constituted reversible error and the adjudication order was reversed and a new hearing was ordered. “A trial court overseeing a juvenile-delinquency proceeding has a heightened obligation to protect the constitutional and statutory rights of any minors who appear before it.” (citations omitted)

 

In re: J.U.

No. COA20-812-2

Cumberland County

2 January 2024

Unpublished Opinion

 

Summary of the Case: This case is a remand from the Supreme Court from a discretionary review of an unpublished opinion from the Court of Appeals. Because the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ holding that force was not alleged in the petition (holding that nonconsensual sexual contact with another person must inherently have the application of some ‘force,’ however slight), the Court of Appeals was unable to address the motion to dismiss as the matter had not been properly preserved for appeal and no manifest injustice existed to allow for invocation of Rule 2 for review of the matter. The court also indicated the issue of the failure of the trial court to include written findings of fact demonstrating it considered the dispositional factors was moot due to the probationary period having previously expired.


 

⬇ UPCOMING TRAININGS







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