This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of: S.J.W.
Filed February 28, 2006
Hennepin County District Court
File No. J5-04-063518
Leonardo Castro, Chief Fourth District Public Defender, Peter W. Gorman, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant S.J.W.)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent State of Minnesota)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Shumaker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant, a juvenile, challenges the district court’s order certifying him as an adult for the trial of a second-degree murder charge against him. He claims that the court erred by failing to dismiss the charge for lack of probable cause and by ruling that public safety would not be served if the matter were to be retained in the juvenile court system. Because the district court did not err in its rulings, we affirm.
August 27, 2004, 15-year-old S.J.W. and two juvenile companions noticed a man
near a bus stop in
When paramedics arrived at the scene, they found the victim, a 61-year-old man, bleeding from the back of his head and vomiting. He later died at the hospital, and an autopsy revealed a bruise on his jaw, multiple bruises on his back, four broken ribs, a skull fracture, and fractures of the hyoid bone and thyroid cartilage.
The state charged S.J.W. by juvenile delinquency petition with unintentional second-degree felony murder and moved for adult certification. S.J.W. moved to dismiss the matter for lack of probable cause. The district court denied the motion and, after an evidentiary hearing, ordered that S.J.W. be certified to be tried as an adult. S.J.W. appealed.
D E C I S I O N
1. Probable Cause Determination
state charged S.J.W. with unintentional felony murder under Minn. Stat.
§ 609.19, subd. 2(1) (2004). The
predicate offense the state alleged was simple robbery.
probable cause inquiry asks whether there is reason to believe that a
particular crime has been committed and that the accused committed that
crime. State v.
argues that the only facts before the district court were his admission that he
“punched the victim one time and that the victim either fell to the ground or
was thrown to the ground.” He contends
that no evidence shows that he did anything to inflict the severe multiple
injuries that the victim sustained or that his conduct caused the victim’s
death. Causation does not have to be
established by direct evidence but may rest upon a reasonable inference to be
drawn from circumstantial evidence. State v. Gillam, 629 N.W.2d 440, 453 (
The district court granted the state’s motion to refer S.J.W. for adult prosecution on a felony-murder charge because the clear and convincing evidence shows that retention of S.J.W. in the juvenile system would not serve public safety. S.J.W. contends that the court’s conclusion was erroneous.
For purposes of a petition to
certify a juvenile to stand trial as an adult, the district court must presume
the juvenile guilty of the crime charged.
In re Welfare of J.L.B., 435
N.W.2d 595, 598 (
There are six statutory criteria pertaining to the charged offense, the juvenile’s participation in the offense, and the juvenile’s background that the court must consider in determining the propriety of certification:
(1) the seriousness of the alleged offense in terms of community protection, including the existence of any aggravating factors recognized by the sentencing guidelines, the use of a firearm, and the impact on any victim;
(2) the culpability of the child in committing the alleged offense, including the level of the child’s participation in planning and carrying out the offense and the existence of any mitigating factors recognized by the sentencing guidelines;
(3) the child’s prior record of delinquency;
(4) the child’s programming history, including the child’s past willingness to participate meaningfully in available programming;
(5) the adequacy of the punishment or programming available in the juvenile justice system; and
(6) the dispositional options available for the child.
Minn. Stat. § 260B.125,
subd. 4(1)-(6). Greater weight is given
to the seriousness of the alleged offense and the child’s prior record of
delinquency than to the other statutory factors.
The district court found that five of the criteria weighed in favor of certification while one was neutral. S.J.W. contends that the court’s findings were erroneous.
a. Seriousness of Alleged Offense
district court did not abuse its discretion by determining that “the
seriousness of the alleged offense in terms of community protection” weighs
heavily in favor of certification. The
court stated that “this exact type of crime is of the type that public safety
is most concerned about, a random act of violence against an individual which
resulted in the death of that individual.”
Violent crimes against persons, such as murder or assault, are often the
basis for adult certification of juveniles.
H.S.H., 609 N.W.2d at 262; In re Welfare of D.T.H., 572 N.W.2d 742
(Minn. App. 1997) (juvenile certified on first- and second-degree murder
charges), review denied (
The district court also found that S.J.W. “was fully culpable in his actions and that no mitigating factors are present.” In assessing culpability, the court looks to the child’s level of planning and participation in the offense. D.T.H., 572 N.W.2d at 744.
contends that he lacked culpability because of his age of 15 years, claiming
that he does not think, plan, or act like an adult. However, chronological age is not conclusive,
and caselaw shows that in appropriate instances certification of 15-year-olds
c. Prior Record of Delinquency
contends that the district court exaggerated his prior record of delinquency. Citing H.S.H.,
609 N.W.2d at 263, for the proposition that the prior delinquency record “must
show deeply ingrained, escalating criminal behavior that presents a threat to
public safety[,]” he argues that his certification was an error. In H.S.H.,
the court determined that certification was inappropriate where the juvenile’s
current offense was check forgery because she had only one prior felony and
showed “honest and sincere” improvements in her life and decision making.
d. Programming History
S.J.W.’s extensive programming history in the juvenile justice system,
including four out-of-home placements, the district court concluded that S.J.W.
has demonstrated an unwillingness to participate meaningfully in programming,
that he is adept at manipulating the system, and that “it is clear from his
on-going behavior that he has never internalized any of the programming or had
any desire to change his behavior.”
Rejection of treatment efforts indicates a juvenile’s unwillingness to
submit meaningfully to programming. In re Matter of I.Q.S., 309
Although S.J.W. argues that past programming has not been appropriate for him because he has mental deficiencies and psychological problems, the evidence shows that S.J.W. is able to control his behavior when he chooses or when his own interests are served and that his problems are not of sufficient severity to prevent his meaningful participation in programs, including those that have been offered repeatedly to him. The evidence also shows that S.J.W.’s periods of courteous and cooperative behavior and positive attitude have always been followed by incidents of outbursts, violence, and setbacks in progress, especially in response to authority.
e. Adequacy of Punishment
The court found that the programs available to S.J.W. in the juvenile system are “not significantly different from the programming [S.J.W.] did not engage in previously . . . ,” and that, considering that S.J.W. would be in the juvenile system for only five years, punishment would not be adequate. Nevertheless, the court found that this criterion was neutral regarding certification. This was not an abuse of discretion, although the district court could have justifiably concluded that the adequacy of punishment for murder available in the juvenile system weighs against S.J.W.
f. Dispositional Options
The final factor the district court considered, and found weighed in favor of certification, was the dispositional options available to appellant. Minn. Stat. § 260B.125, subd. 4(6). The court determined that although there are several dispositional options available in the juvenile system, none of them would best serve public safety. Instead, the district court determined that appellant needs long-term, intensive placement. Its determination was based on finding that appellant failed to show amenability to residential treatments in the past, and that at the time of trial he did not indicate that he was more resolute to change his behavior than he had been in the past.
Careful review of the record reveals that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering certification.