This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of: A.J.F.
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 27-JV-05-6871/244613
Leonardo Castro, Hennepin County Public Defender, Rachelle Loewenson Stratton, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant)
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, David C. Brown, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.
On appeal from an order certifying him to stand trial as an adult on counts of first-degree murder, first-degree aggravated robbery, second-degree assault, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, and first-degree criminal sexual conduct, 15-year-old A.J.F. argues that the district court (1) did not properly weigh his culpability in the alleged offenses; (2) gave too much weight to the seriousness of the offense and did not properly weigh his prior record of delinquency; and (3) abused its discretion by determining that the punishment in the juvenile system is insufficient and that no appropriate dispositional options are available in the juvenile system. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in weighing the statutory certification factors, we affirm.
“This court will not reverse a juvenile certification order unless the district court’s findings are ‘clearly erroneous so as to constitute an abuse of discretion.’” In re Welfare of H.S.H., 609 N.W.2d 259, 261 (Minn. App. 2000) (quoting In re Welfare of S.J.G., 547 N.W.2d 456, 459 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Aug. 6, 1996)). For purposes of appeal from a certification order, the factual allegations in the delinquency petition and the charges against the juvenile are presumed to be true. In re Welfare of U.S., 612 N.W.2d 192, 195 (Minn. App. 2000); In re Welfare of J.L.B., 435 N.W.2d 595, 598 (Minn. App. 1989), review denied (Minn. Mar. 17, 1989).
In determining whether the public safety is served by certifying the matter, the court shall consider the following factors:
(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.
§ 260B.125, subd. 4. “In
considering these factors, the court shall give greater weight to the
seriousness of the alleged offense and the child’s prior record of delinquency
than to the other factors listed in this subdivision.”
I. Seriousness of the alleged offenses
The delinquency petition alleged that A.J.F. is delinquent by reason of having committed second-degree murder, first-degree aggravated robbery, second-degree assault, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, and first-degree criminal sexual conduct. A Grand Jury also returned an 18-count indictment against A.J.F., charging him with first-degree murder as well as all of the crimes listed in the juvenile petition. A.J.F. does not challenge the court’s finding that the seriousness of the alleged offenses weighs heavily in favor of certification. A.J.F. argues, however, that the district court put “enormous weight on the seriousness of the offense, and failed to set forth any evidence aside from the alleged offenses that would justify certification.” We find no merit in this argument.
The district court was not required to “set forth any evidence” but rather had to weigh the statutory factors involving certification based on the evidence presented. The district court noted that “[t]he crimes and behavior alleged in this case are among a handful of the most extreme and egregious criminal allegations” that the district court had seen in 25 years of practice as a criminal law attorney and judge, and found that “[t]his factor in total weighs extremely strongly in favor of certification.” But there is no support in the record for a conclusion that the district court based the certification decision solely on the seriousness of the alleged offenses. The district court found that three additional factors also weighed heavily in favor of certification.
In determining culpability, the
district court must look to “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.”
A.J.F. relies on Roper v. Simmons to argue that his age
should impact a determination of his culpability in a certification
As A.J.F. acknowledges, Tim Turrentine of the Hennepin County Juvenile Probation Investigations Unit and Dr. Rebecca Reed of Hennepin County Psychological Services each testified about the difference age can make in impulse control and response to peer pressure. Dr. Reed testified that ADHD and FASD could also affect impulsivity in children. Neither expert, however, concluded that age or the level of A.J.F.’s disabilities constituted a mitigating factor in assessing his culpability for the alleged offenses. A.J.F. does not argue that the ADHD or FASD diagnoses constitute a mitigating factor under the guidelines or that there is evidence of any other mitigating factor recognized by the guidelines. Rather, he argues that “the [c]ourt must expand its traditional definition” of culpability to include consideration of A.J.F.’s age and disabilities. But the district court assessed culpability exactly as the legislature instructed, and we find no abuse of discretion in the district court’s finding that this factor supports certification.
III. Prior record of delinquency
The certification statute provides
that a district court shall give greater weight to a juvenile’s prior record of
delinquency, as well as the seriousness of the offense, than to the other
factors listed in the statute.
A.J.F. has no prior record of
delinquency, but the district court found that A.J.F. had five prior contacts
with juvenile court which include: (1) a third-degree burglary charge that was
reduced to trespassing; (2) a curfew violation; (3) possession of a knife in
school; (4) a disorderly conduct charge; and (5) a property and curfew charge. The district court found that A.J.F. had been
suspended from school 15 times, but also found that 12 of those suspensions
occurred before A.J.F. was 10-years-old and could therefore not be considered
as delinquency matters. Of the three
suspensions that occurred after he was 10 years old, two were for fighting with
other students and one was for vandalism.
The district court found that A.J.F. was expelled from school in 2004
for possession of a knife and possession of pornography on school
property. During his detention at the
While A.J.F. does not specifically
contest the accuracy of any specific incidents in his record, he argues that
the district court relied on school records that were “outdated and unreliable
hearsay.” But A.J.F. did not object to
the testimony or exhibits that referenced those events; therefore, he has
waived appeal on this issue. See Roby v. State, 547 N.W.2d 354, 357 (
IV. Programming history, including the child’s past willingness to participate meaningfully in available programming
The district court found that A.J.F. has “virtually no programming history” and there is little evidence in the record from which to make a determination about A.J.F.’s willingness to meaningfully participate in programming. The district court concluded that this factor weighed somewhat in favor of retaining juvenile-court jurisdiction, and A.J.F. does not challenge the court’s determination on this factor.
V. Adequacy of punishment or programming available in the juvenile justice system
The district court found that under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines, an adult convicted of the crimes with which A.J.F. is charged could receive a presumptive sentence of “life with a consecutive 408 months.” Because the maximum juvenile-court jurisdiction over A.J.F. would be less than six years, the district court concluded that this is “an insufficient amount of time under the facts of this case” and that “[t]his factor weighs very strongly in favor of certification.” There is scant evidence in the record about programming available for A.J.F. so we assume that implicit in the district court’s minimal findings on this factor is a conclusion that the punishment in juvenile court for the crimes alleged is wholly inadequate as compared to the presumptive punishment in adult court for the crimes charged. There is merit to A.J.F.’s arguments that (1) assessment of this factor should include more than a mathematical comparison of juvenile and adult sentences, and (2) the state failed to meet its burden to produce evidence regarding programming. Nonetheless, the district court’s finding that punishment in the juvenile system is so inadequate as to make this factor weigh in favor of certification is not clearly erroneous.
VI. Dispositional options available for the child
The district court found that the only juvenile or EJJ program that would accept A.J.F. is MCF-Red Wing, which provides treatment, education, and transition services for male juveniles who have committed serious offenses. The average length of stay at MCF-Red Wing is 13 months, but youths committed for offenses involving the loss of life are reviewed individually by the Commissioner of Corrections for length-of-stay determinations.
Dr. Reed testified that in her opinion the offenses in this case “are so significant and [A.J.F.’s] culpability so high that the levels of probation supervision and aftercare available within the juvenile system would be inadequate to insure that [A.J.F.’s] behavior was adequately controlled to the extent that he would no longer present a risk to others.” Tim Turrentine opined that “there does not appear to be time or resources available in the Juvenile Justice System to hold [A.J.F.] accountable for his alarming actions nor to protect the community.” Based on this record, the district court concluded that MCF-Red Wing is not an appropriate disposition for A.J.F., given the need for significant punishment for the crimes alleged and the risk to public safety posed by A.J.F.
A.J.F. argues that Dr. Reed, Tim Turrentine, and the district court improperly weighed the factors of punishment and dispositional options “based primarily on the seriousness of the offense[s].” Because the seriousness of the offenses is highly relevant to the consideration of the adequacy of punishment and dispositional options, we find no abuse of discretion in the court’s consideration of the seriousness of the offenses to analyze the punishment and dispositional factors. As the district court found, it is the seriousness of the offenses that makes both the punishment and the programming available in juvenile court inadequate to protect public safety. The record supports the district court’s findings, and the findings support certification.
 See Minn. Stat. § 260B.193, subd. 5(b) (2006) (stating that extended juvenile jurisdiction continues until the offender becomes 21).