Washington Appeals Court Remands Juvenile Case for Consideration of Racial Bias

In some circumstances, a Washington juvenile court may decline or waive jurisdiction and transfer a case, resulting in the juvenile being tried as an adult.  The U.S. Supreme Court set forth the factors to be considered by a juvenile court in making a decision to decline jurisdiction in Kent v. United States.  Division One of the Washington Court of Appeals has further held that when a defendant raises the issue of racial bias in a declination hearing, supported by some evidence, the juvenile court must rule on the issue.  State of Washington v. Quijas.  In a recent case, Division Three also reviewed a case in which the juvenile court had not addressed the issue of racial bias or discrimination.

At the time of the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the fifteen-year-old defendant was pending trial for first degree murder.  The state alleged the defendant shot and killed a nineteen-year-old man.  The state also alleged the murder had been unprovoked and premeditated, and that the juvenile and the victim did not know each other.

The defendant was just fourteen years old at the time of the shooting.  The state moved to have him tried as an adult.  The court admitted 49 exhibits and heard eight witnesses testify, including the defendant’s mother, his school principal, a gang expert, juvenile detention staff, and a forensic psychologist.

The trial court granted the state’s motion in a 52-page letter decision, which was incorporated into an order.  The appeals court granted the defendant’s request for discretionary review as to the juvenile court’s application of Quijas.

The state than moved to summarily remand the case to the trial court to determine if the juvenile declination process is discriminatory.  The defendant joined the motion, but disagreed with the state on the scope of remand.

The appeals court stated it was granting the motion because the order and letter ruling had not resolved the issue of racial bias.  Although the letter rule summarized the defendant’s argument and relevant case law on this factor, it did not apply that law to the facts.  It did not address whether racial bias might be present in the case and how that affected the decision to decline jurisdiction.  The appeals court noted that the juvenile court’s failure to resolve the racial bias factor required it to remand the case.

The state asked the appeals court to limit remand to the issue of racial bias.  The defendant, however, wanted the appeals court to vacate the declination order and remand for a new hearing.

The appeals court noted that the juvenile court was familiar with the facts of the case and facts and circumstances of the defendant’s life.  Additionally, the previous hearing had been fairly recent.  The appeals court concluded that a de novo declination hearing was not necessary on remand and the court could conduct a continued declination hearing to address the issue of racial bias.  The appeals court directed the juvenile court to reopen the record for additional evidence on the racial bias factor, without requiring the parties to present again evidence that had previously been presented.  The appeals court also noted the juvenile court had the discretion to reopen the record for additional evidence on other factors.

Being tried as an adult can have serious consequences for a young person.  If your child has been charged with a crime, a skilled Washington juvenile criminal defense attorney can help you fight to protect your child and their rights.  Call Blair & Kim, PLLC, at (206) 622-6562 for a consultation.


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