Thursday, October 4, 2012

Another NJ Supreme Court decision on juvenile waivers

I earlier posted a response to a Supreme Court (New Jersey) case dealing with the rights of minors not to be prosecuted as adults that was favorable towards teenagers.  Now, about a week later, the Supreme Court issued another decision that makes it easier for prosecutors to have cases waived from Family Court to criminal court and restricts the rights of trial judges in Family Court to prevent that removal. So it looks like the earlier decision, In the Matter of V.A., may not have as broad an implication as first thought. The later decision. Basically the Supreme Court held In the Matter of A.D. which was decided a week after V.A. The Supreme Court noted that the Legislature, in its amendments to the laws under N.J.S.A. 2A:4(A)-26 sought to streamline the waiver of juveniles into the adult courts when crimes were determined to be serious. The Supreme Court held that the trial judge was wrong in imposing an improper standard in opposing the waiver, since all that the prosecution had to do was to establish by probable cause that the defendants had committed the crime in question and "that the probable cause standard that governs waiver of juvenile complaints into adult criminal court under N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26 is similar to the standard that guides a grand jury's determination whether or not to indict. If the trial court finds that the State has presented evidence which, combined with reasonable inferences to be drawn from that evidence, leads to a well-grounded suspicion or belief that the juvenile has committed one or more crimes enumerated in the statute, the "probable cause" standard of N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26 is satisfied."
Now this case did involve defendants who were seventeen had been involved in a shooting involving their relatives, one of whom happened to be a leader in the Latin Kings gang.  The Supreme Court found that the trial court erred in determining that the youths were not aware that their involvement was going to lead to the shootings, since they would be liable as accomplices.
One justice, Justice Albin, dissented, believing that the majority failed to give due deference to the findings of the trial judge and removing their discretionary powers to keep matters in juvenile court, while basically limiting them to a limited review of the prosecutor's finding that the youth's had been involved in an enumerated crime.
Justice Albin was one of the supporting justices in the case decided only one week before V.A. that I reported on earlier.

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