Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, March 21, 2003


Page 3


Appeals Court Upholds Use of Juvenile Adjudications in Three-Strikes Cases


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting the ability of courts to impose sentence enhancements based on facts that have not been determined by juries does not preclude the use of juvenile adjudications in three-strikes cases, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.

Div. Four Wednesday affirmed Matthew Jackson’s 12-year sentence for carjacking and robbery. Jackson pled guilty, pursuant to a plea negotiation, but challenged Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jack P. Hunt’s decision to treat his prior juvenile adjudication for robbery as a second “strike” and double his sentence.

Jackson’s court-appointed appellate lawyer, Vanessa Place, argued that the use of juvenile adjudications, which are rendered without jury trials, violates Apprendi v. New Jersey, (2000) 530 U.S. 466. The Supreme Court there struck down a New Jersey law that allowed a judge to impose up to double what would otherwise be the maximum sentence upon a finding that the crime was motivated by the victim’s race or religion.

The court ruled:

“Other than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But Justice Norman Epstein Wednesday, in his unpublished opinion for Div. Four, concluded that a juvenile adjudication is a “prior conviction” under Apprendi.

The justice said he was unpersuaded by a divided Ninth Circuit panel, which opined in U. S. v. Tighe (9th Cir. 2001) 266 F.3d 1187 that prior juvenile adjudications do not fall within the prior conviction exception because they have not been established “through procedures satisfying the fair notice, reasonable doubt and jury trial guarantees” and thus lack the reliability of adult convictions.

Epstein instead sided with the dissenter in Tighe, Senior Judge Melvin Brunetti, and with the Eighth Circuit, which adopted Brunetti’s view in a later case. The justice agreed with Brunetti that juvenile adjudications are sufficiently reliable because the accused “presumably received all the process that was due,” which for juveniles does not include trial by jury.

Another Court of Appeal panel reached the same result in People v. Bowden (2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 387, Epstein noted.

Deputy Attorneys General Victoria B. Wilson and Jaime L. Fuster represented the state in the case, People v. Jackson, B158839.


Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company