In re J. C. N.-V., 052616 ORSC, SC S063111

Docket Nº:SC S063111
Opinion Judge:WA LT ER S, J.
Party Name:In the Matter of J. C. N.-V., a Youth. v. J. C. N.-V., Petitioner on Review. STATE OF OREGON, Respondent on Review, v.
Attorney:Angela Sherbo, Youth, Rights and Justice, Portland, argued the cause and fled the briefs for petitioner on review. Erin K. Galli, Assistant Attorney General, Salem, argued the cause and fled the brief for respondent on review. With her on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and P...
Judge Panel:Before Balmer, Chief Justice, Kistler, Walters, Landau, Baldwin, and Brewer, Justices.
Case Date:May 26, 2016
Court:Supreme Court of Oregon

359 Or. 559 (2016)

In the Matter of J. C. N.-V., a Youth.

STATE OF OREGON, Respondent on Review,

v.

J. C. N.-V., Petitioner on Review.

SC S063111

Supreme Court of Oregon

May 26, 2016

Argued and submitted November 9, 2015.

On review from the Court of Appeals CC J090600; CA A147958.[*]

Angela Sherbo, Youth, Rights and Justice, Portland, argued the cause and fled the briefs for petitioner on review.

Erin K. Galli, Assistant Attorney General, Salem, argued the cause and fled the brief for respondent on review. With her on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Paul L. Smith, Deputy Solicitor General.

Jordan R. Silk, Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, P.C., Portland, fled the brief for amici curiae Megan E. Annito, Neelum Arya, Tamar R. Birckhead, Caroline Davidson, Barry C. Feld, Erik J. Girvan, Martin Guggenheim, Leslie Harris, Carrie S. Leonetti, Susan F. Mandiberg, Margie L. Paris, and Barbara Bennett Woodhouse.

Marsha Levick, Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Roy Pulvers, Holland & Knight LLP, Portland, fled the brief for amici curiae Juvenile Law Center, American Probation and Parole Association, The Barton Child Law and Policy Center, The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, Campaign for Youth Justice, Center on Children and Families, Michele Deitch, Fight for Lifers West, Inc., Kristin Henning, Justice Policy Institute, Louisiana Center for Children's Rights, Mental Health America of Oregon, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, national Center for Youth Law, National Juvenile Defender Center, National Juvenile Justice Network, Pacifc Juvenile Defender Center, Rutgers-Camden School of Law Children's Justice Clinic, Sothern Poverty Law Center, Youth Law Center, Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon.

Sara F. Werboff, Portland, fled the brief for amicus cur-iae Oregon Justice Resource Center. With her on the brief were Lindsay Burrows and Elizabeth G. Daily.

Bronson D. James, Portland, fled the brief for amici cur-iae American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and individual academics.

Before Balmer, Chief Justice, Kistler, Walters, Landau, Baldwin, and Brewer, Justices. [**]

Case Summary:

Youth, who was 13 years old when he allegedly participated in a violent murder and robbery, was deemed to be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the juvenile court due to his age. The state petitioned to waive youth into circuit court to be tried as an adult under ORS 419C.352, which provides for waiver of juveniles as young as 12 who allegedly have committed certain serious crimes. Under that statute, the juvenile court was required to make certain findings before it waived youth into adult court, including a finding, incorporated by reference from another statute, ORS 419C.349(3), that, at the time of the conduct alleged, youth "was of sufficient sophistication and maturity to appreciate the nature and quality of the conduct involved." The juvenile court found that that requirement was satisfied insofar as youth appeared to understand what he had done and that it was wrong and was of "average" sophistication and maturity for his age. Youth appealed, arguing that ORS 419C.349(3) was not satisfied by showing a youth's bare mental capacity to understand the physical nature and wrongfulness of the conduct and that, instead, the statute required a more adultlike ability to appreciate the conduct's gravity, consequences and wrongfulness on an intellectual and emotional level. The Court of Appeals rejected that argument and affirmed. Held: ORS 419C.349(3) requires a juvenile court to determine whether the youth in question has sufficient adult-like mental social and emotional developmental capabilities to appreciate the conduct, its consequences and criminality, and the juvenile court did not undertake that kind of analysis before making the required finding with respect to youth.

WA LT ER S, J.

This case involves a challenge to a juvenile court's decision to waive its jurisdiction over a 13-year-old boy who was alleged to have committed aggravated murder. Under the relevant statutes, ORS 419C.352 and ORS 419C.349, a youth under the age of 15 who is alleged to have committed murder may be waived into adult court only if, at the time of the conduct, he or she "was of sufficient sophistication and maturity to appreciate the nature and quality of the conduct involved." In this case, based on evidence suggesting that youth was of "average" sophistication and maturity for his age and was "just as effective" as peers of his age in understanding that his conduct was wrong, the juvenile court found that the statutory "sophistication and maturity" requirement had been satisfied. The Court of Appeals affirmed in an en banc decision, holding that the "sophistication and maturity" provision requires only an awareness of the physical nature and criminality of the conduct at issue-a test that generally has been considered sufficient to establish criminal capacity. State v. J. C. N.-V., 268 Or.App. 505, 539, 342 P.3d 1046 (2015). As discussed below, we agree with youth that the "sophistication and maturity" requirement is more demanding. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and the decision of the juvenile court, and remand the case to the juvenile court for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Youth was 13 years and eight months old when he allegedly participated in a violent murder and robbery. When he was taken into custody, youth was deemed to be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the juvenile court. ORS 4190005(1); ORS 419C.094. The state, however, petitioned the juvenile court to waive youth into Washington County Circuit Court so that he could be tried as an adult for, among things, aggravated murder, ORS 163.095.

At a hearing on the state's petition, the parties presented evidence addressing the requirements for waiver. To show that youth possessed "sufficient sophistication and maturity to appreciate the nature and quality of the conduct involved, " ORS 419C.349(3), the state relied in large part on facts about youth's alleged participation in the murder. It presented evidence that Aguilar-Mandujano, the 20-year-old brother of youth's girlfriend, had solicited youth's assistance in a plan to rob and murder an adult acquaintance; that youth had agreed to participate; that youth had initiated the attack on the victim by striking him with a tire iron that Aguilar-Mandujano had provided; that youth had repeatedly hit the victim with the tire iron while Aguilar-Mandujano stabbed him with a knife; that Aguilar-Mandujano had given the knife to youth, who also had stabbed the victim in the chest and neck; that youth had assisted Aguilar-Mandujano in disposing of the murder weapons and in pushing the victim's body down to the river that ran next to the park where the murder occurred; and that youth had later returned to the river with another associate and, finding the victim's body still visible, had kicked the body completely into the river. The state suggested that the requisite "sophistication and maturity to appreciate the nature and quality of the conduct" was evident from youth's own admission that he had understood Aguilar-Mandujano's plan and what he was being asked to do, from his "high degree of participation" in the actual killing, from his efforts to conceal evidence of the murder, and from his own acknowledged apprehensions about being caught and going to jail for his participation in the murder.

The state also relied on an evaluation of youth submitted by a psychologist, Dr. Sebastian. Dr. Sebastian's report acknowledged youth's immaturity. She reported that, on a well-accepted "Sophistication-Maturity Scale" designed for use by courts in making waiver decisions, youth was immature in many ways: he "ha[d] not developed an internal locus of control, " he was "influenced and led by older youth, " and his "self-concept [was] not yet solidly developed." His "moral development [was] still immature in that he c [ould] identify the impacts of his behavior on his immediate family * * * but he was unable to appreciate the impact of his behavior on his victims." Dr. Sebastian's conclusion, however, was that youth exhibited average sophistication and maturity for his age and that he understood that his conduct was wrong: "By structured interview, testing and collateral dat[a], it is this examiner's opinion that [youth] is as sophisticated and mature as one might expect of a thirteen/fourteen-year old. In other words, he is average in sophistication and maturity for his age. Using records, testing and interview it is clear this young man has the ability to: (1) think independently, (2) understand behavioral norms and expectations of adolescents in the larger picture, (3) weigh the risks and benefits of his action, (4) demonstrate age appropriate social skills, (5) anticipate the consequences of his actions, [and] (6) discern which of his behaviors are antisocial. When compared to his age mates, he is just as effective or more effective (because of his strong cognitive ability) in understanding that his crime was wrong and identifying alternatives to his actions. He is less able than his peers at understanding his emotions, resolving conflicts effectively and resisting the influence of other youth."

To counter the state's contention that, at the time of the murder, youth had sufficient "sophistication and maturity to appreciate the nature and quality of [his] conduct, " youth presented neuro-scientific evidence about the limitations of adolescent brains in relation to those of adults. An expert, Dr. Nagel, testified about the undeveloped nature of the prefrontal cortex in adolescents, and...

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