Sexually violent predators; proof of likelihood to re-offend

In the Matter of the Detention of Troy Belcher, 399 P.3d 1179 (Wash. 2017)

Washington Supreme Court rules that an adult’s convictions as a juvenile can be “predicate offenses” supporting a finding that the person meets the criteria for continued civil commitment as a sexually violent predator.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 3

Criminal sentencing of juveniles; right to new sentencing hearing

In re Kirchner, 393 P.3d 364 (Cal. 2017)

California Supreme Court rules that inmate sentenced 20 years ago as a juvenile to life imprisonment without parole under standards violating Miller v. Alabama was entitled to seek relief through a habeas corpus action and is entitled to re-sentencing under the Miller standards.

Found in DMHL Volume 36, Issue 2

Missouri Supreme Court Bans Execution of Juvenile Offenders

State ex rel. Simmons v. Roper, 112 S.W.3d 397 (Mo. 2003); 72(9) U.S. Law Week 1143-44 (Sept. 16, 2003)

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the execution of defendants who were juveniles when they committed their offense is barred by the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.  Applying the analysis used by the U.S. Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the court concluded that evolving standards of decency have similarly led to a national consensus opposing juvenile executions.  The court asserted that if the U.S. Supreme Court were to review its decision from 14 years ago in Stanford v. Kentucky (1989), it would rule that "evolving standards of decency" mandate that the execution of 16- and 17-year-old offenders be found unconstitutional...

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1

Child Testimony Via Closed-Circuit Testimony Upheld

Johnson v. Commonwealth, 580 S.E.2d 486 (Va. Ct. App. 2003); 17(51) Virginia Lawyers Weekly 1290 (May 26, 2003)

The Virginia Court of Appeal upheld a Virginia statute that allows victims of child sexual abuse to offer trial testimony via closed-circuit television.  In rejecting the defendant's Sixth Amendment challenge, the court noted the statute appropriately required a "case-specific" showing of necessity and that it met the requirements established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Maryland v. Craig (1990) when it required the trial court to find that the child is unavailable to testify in open court in the presence of the defendant because the child refuses to testify, the child is unable to communicate, or there is a substantial likelihood that the child will suffer severe emotional trauma if the child testifies.  The court added the statute actually went beyond the requirements in Craig because it provided for two-way closed-circuit television as opposed to the one-way closed-circuit testimony upheld in Craig....

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1

Sexual Assault Conviction Reversed Because Prosecutor Told Jury that Commonly Known Children Don't Report Sexual Assaults Right Away

Smith v. Commonwealth, 580 S.E.2d 481 (Va. Ct. App. 2003); 17(51) Virginia Lawyers Weekly 1291 (May 26, 2003)

The Virginia Court of Appeals overturned a sexual assault conviction because the trial court failed to specifically direct the jury to disregard a statement made by the prosecutor during jury selection that "it's commonly known that children don't report sexual assaults right away, if at all."  The court noted in this case the credibility of the victims was vital to the Commonwealth's case because only the victims' testimony proved defendant was the perpetrator of these assaults.
Furthermore, a major factor affecting their credibility was their delay in reporting the assaults to an adult...

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1

Conviction of Mentally Retarded Defendant of Malicious Wounding for Injuries Suffered by Infant from "Shaken Baby Syndrome" Upheld

Funk v. Commonwealth, No. 1821- 02-4, 2003 WL 21524686 (Va. Ct. App. July 8, 2003); 18(8) Virginia Lawyers Weekly 185-86 (July 28, 2003)

Although the defendant was mentally retarded with an IQ of 65 and his lawyer argued he did not understand the fragility of his six-week-old son, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled the defendant was properly convicted of malicious wounding for the permanent injuries suffered by the child from "shaken baby syndrome." The court noted these injuries left the child severely retarded, the child was under the sole care of the defendant, and he eventually admitted he shook the victim three times and may have been too rough.  The court determined the jury could reasonably infer from the violence necessary to cause such severe and extensive injury that the defendant intended that which resulted...

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1

Ban on Selling "Graphically Violent" Videos to Minors Unconstitutional

Interactive Digital Software Ass'n v. St. Louis County, 329 F.3d 954 (8th Cir. 2003); 71(48) U.S. Law Week 1771 (June 17, 2003)

The Eighth Circuit ruled that a county ordinance that banned making "graphically violent" video games available to minors violates the First Amendment.  The county had argued that the ban was necessary to prevent psychological harm to youth and to aid parents in protecting their children's well being.  The court determined that video games are speech entitled to full First Amendment  protection and therefore the restrictions on this speech had to satisfy "strict scrutiny."  The court concluded the first rationale offered by the county for this restriction was insufficiently documented and the second rationale was inadequate....

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1

Juvenile Adjudications Can Count as "Prior Conviction" and Enhance Sentencing Under Federal Law

United States v. Jones, 332 F.3d 688 (3d Cir. 2003); 72(1) U.S. Law Week 1003-04 (July 8, 2003)

The Third Circuit ruled a juvenile adjudication can count as a "prior conviction" for purposes of enhancing sentencing under federal law if the adjudication was based on a proceeding that included the privilege against self­ incrimination and rights to notice, counsel, confrontation, and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  The court determined the absence of a right to a jury trial in the juvenile proceeding was not dispositive because a bench trial provided sufficient reliability to the outcome. In so ruling, the court agreed with the Eighth Circuit but disagreed with the Ninth...

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1

Juvenile Curfew Ordinance Found Unconstitutional

Ramos v. Town of Vernon, 331 F.3d 315 (2d Cir. 2003); 71(48) U.S. Law Week 1772-73 (June 17, 2003)

The Second Circuit struck down the juvenile curfew ordinance of a town in Connecticut. The ordinance made it unlawful for any person under 18 to be in any public place between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, or between midnight and 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.  Allowed exceptions included juveniles accompanied by an adult or juveniles engaged in employment.  The curfew had three stated goals: protecting minors from harm at night, protecting the general population from nighttime juvenile crime, and promoting responsible parenting. The court determined the ordinance infringed "a minor's right to move about freely when not prohibited from doing so by his or her parents" and that it should receive "intermediate scrutiny" under the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.  This in turn required that the town show a "direct, substantial relationship" between the factual premises of the curfew and its restrictions.  The Second Circuit concluded there was insufficient evidence juveniles commit or are victims of nocturnal street crimes to justify the

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1

Refusal to Grant "Parental Immunity" to Residential Child Care Facility Not Disturbed

Wallace v. Smyth, 786 N.E.2d 980 (111. 2002), cert. denied, Maryville Academy v. Wallace, 124 S. Ct. 43 (2003)

The Supreme Court declined to review a ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court that refused to grant immunity from liability to a residential child care facility and its employees.  The facility and seven of its employees were sued when a 12-year-old boy who had been placed in their care for a 90- day diagnostic assessment died.  After being placed in restraint for more than four hours, the boy died from positional asphyxia....

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1

Ruling that 12-Year-Ol d Boy Could Be Subject to Life-Long Sex Offender Registration and Be Required to Move from His Home Town Not Disturbed

In re J.W., 787 N.E.2d 747 (Ill. 2003), cert. denied, 124 S. Ct. 222 (2003)

The Supreme Court declined to review a ruling of the Supreme Court of Illinois that a juvenile adjudicated delinquent for aggravated criminal sexual assault could be required to register and report for the rest of his life as a sex offender and could be prohibited from residing in his home town.  The juvenile was a 12-year-old boy who had been sentenced to a term of five years' probation following his admission of having sexual contact with two 7- year-old boys a number of times.  He was required to reside with his aunt and would be allowed to reside with his parents only if they moved to another town.  The juvenile had argued in part that subjecting him to the registration requirement was inconsistent with the purposes and policies underlying the Illinois Juvenile Court Act...

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1

Teacher Claimed Constitutional Rights Violated When Arresting Police Officers Failed to Adequately Question Credibility of Special Needs Student Who Asserted Teacher Sexually Fondled Him

Forest v. Pawtucket Police Dep't, 377 F.3d 52 (1st Cir. 2004)

In Rhode Island, a high school special education teacher was arrested for the alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old male student during class. On the day of the purported incident, the student had gone to the principal's office and claimed that the teacher had touched him in a sexual manner during class. That evening the student and his mother went to the local police department and filed a complaint against the teacher. Police officers interviewed and reinterviewed the student and his mother, as well as the school principal, who confirmed that the student had come to his office with his complaint...

Found in DMHL Volume 24 Issue 2

Child Sexual Abuse Victims Can Be Required to Undergo a Mental Health Evaluation to Determine Credibility of the Report of Abuse; Ruling Not Disturbed

In re Michael H., 602 S.E.2d 729 (S.C. 2004)

Because criminal charges of sexual assault often center on the reports of the purported victim, the credibility of these reports is often critical.  Defendants in such cases may seek a mental health evaluation of the victim to determine whether there is reason to question the credibility of the report. Victims' advocates, concerned that such evaluations may place the victims and their mental state "on trial," often object to these court-ordered mental health evaluations. The courts have wrestled with how to resolve this conflict, particularly when the purported victim is a minor...

Found in DMHL Volume 24 Issue 2

Death Penalty for Juveniles Convicted of Murder Held to Be Unconstitutional Because a National Consensus Opposes Its Use and Juvenile Offenders Are Less Culpable Than Adults

Roper v. Simmons, 125 S. Ct. 1183 (2005)

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision that it is unconstitutional to impose the death penalty on convicted murderers who were younger than 18 at the time of the crime. The Court concluded that such executions violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishments."...

Found in DMHL Volume 24 Issue 2

Paraphiliac Pedophile's Acceptance of Responsibility for the Sexual Exploitation of Children Is Grounds for Sentence Reduction

United States v. Kise, 369 F.3d 766 (4th Cir. 2004 )

The future of the federal sentencing guidelines is somewhat in doubt following the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling in Blakely v. Washington, 124 S. Ct. 2531 (2004).  Under the guidelines as they currently exist, however, a trial judge in the federal system is to consider a number of factors in deciding whether to enhance or reduce a convicted defendant's sentence.  The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a defendant who admitted to and attempted to remedy his mental disorder should be granted a sentence reduction...

Found in DMHL Volume 24 Issue 1

Parent May Be Denied Access to Child's Mental Health Records During Divorce and Custody Proceedings

In re Berg, 886 A.2d 980 (N.H. 2005)

Children may be receiving mental health services while their parents are in the process of becoming divorced.  During a custody dispute, a parent may seek to gain access to a child's mental health records in an effort to establish through the discussions between the child and the child's therapist that the other parent has engaged in inappropriate conduct. Although parents generally have a right to access the mental health records of their children, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that this right is significantly limited when asserted in connection with divorce proceedings and custody disputes...

Found in DMHL Volume 25 Issue 2

School Officials Can Be Held Liable for Failing to Protect Special Education Students from Bullying

Scruggs v. Meriden Bd. of Educ., No. 3:03CV2224(PCD), 2005 WL 2072312 (D. Conn. Aug. 26, 2005)

Bullying in schools is increasingly recognized as a significant problem, with students enrolled in special education programs particularly vulnerable to this bullying. The United States District Court of Connecticut ruled that when school officials fail to take adequate steps to protect such students from bullying they may be sued for the harm resulting from this bullying...

Found in DMHL Volume 25 Issue 2

Prison Sentence Imposed on Parents Who Hosted Teen Beer Party Is Upheld

Robinson v. Commonwealth, 625 S.E.2d 651 (Va. Ct. App. 2006)

Underage drinking has been recognized as a significant public health concern. For example, the annual social cost of underage drinking in the United States has been estimated at $53 billion, including $19 billion from traffic crashes and $29 billion from violent crime. In a 2005 nationwide survey of high school seniors, 47% reported consuming alcohol in the past month. A number of law­ related efforts have been employed in an effort to curb this consumption, including imposing greater legal liability on parents who permit or promote this activity...

Found in DMHL Volume 25 Issue 2

HIPAA Did Not Preclude Psychotherapist from Reporting That 16-Year-Old Boy Saw Child Pornography on His Father's Home Computer

United States v. Mathis, 377 F. Supp. 2d 640 (M.D. Tenn. 2005)

A sixteen-year-old boy disclosed to his psychotherapist that he saw (1) pornographic images of children on his father's computer at home and (2) his father sitting naked at his computer in front of a webcam.  Although there was no indication the father had sexually abused his son, the psychotherapist reported the disclosure to law enforcement authorities, which ultimately led to the arrest of the father. The father asserted that this report violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and, thus, all evidence generated as a result of this report, including a search of the father's computer, should be suppressed...

Found in DMHL Volume 25 Issue 1

Young Girl Competent to Testify During Criminal Proceeding

Avalos v. Commonwealth, No. 2874-03-4, 2005 WL 1429772 (Va. Ct. App. June 21, 2005)

The Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that a young girl, whose exact age was not given, was competent to testify in a criminal proceeding.  The defendant in the case had been convicted of animate object sexual penetration of a child under the age of 13.  He claimed that the alleged victim was incompetent to testify because she did not independently remember the incident, had a limited capacity to recall the events, and did not understand or affirm the oath administered prior to her testimony...

Found in DMHL Volume 25 Issue 1