Ramona R. v. Superior Court

Citation693 P.2d 789,37 Cal.3d 802,210 Cal.Rptr. 204
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Decision Date28 January 1985
Parties, 693 P.2d 789 RAMONA R., a Minor, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT of Los Angeles County, Respondent; The PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest. L.A. 31800.

Quin Denvir, State Public Defender, Kathleen Kahn, Victoria Sleeth and George L. Schraer, Deputy State Public Defenders, as amici curiae on behalf of petitioner.

No appearance for respondent.

Robert H. Philibosian, Dist. Atty., Donald J. Kaplan and George M. Palmer, Deputy Dist. Attys., for real party in interest.

MOSK, Justice.

In this prosecution for murder, minor defendant Ramona R. seeks a writ of mandate to compel respondent court to vacate an order declaring her unfit to be tried in juvenile court. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 707, subd. (c) [hereinafter section 707(c) ].) 1 She contends the court erred in refusing to grant her immunity from use at trial of any statements she made in the fitness hearing or to her probation officer. We must decide whether prior California law, which provided for such use immunities, was nullified by article I, section 28, subdivision (d), of the California Constitution (hereinafter section 28(d)), adopted by the electorate as part of Proposition 8 at the June 1982 Primary Election. If it was, we must further decide whether section 707(c), which places the burden of proving fitness for juvenile court treatment on the minor, is unconstitutional because it compels the minor to choose between her due process right to testify and her privilege against self-incrimination. As will appear, we need reach only the first question, for we hold that the use immunities heretofore recognized are preserved by the exception for statutory privileges provided in section 28(d).

A brief review of the challenged procedure will be helpful. Juvenile court jurisdiction attaches in cases in which the defendant is "under the age of 18 years when he violates any law of this state" (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 602). However, if the defendant is aged 16 years or older at the time of the offense, the district attorney may move to have the minor tried as an adult. (Id., § 707, subd. (a) [hereinafter section 707(a) ].) If the district attorney so moves, the juvenile court conducts a fitness hearing to determine if the minor is "amenable to the care, treatment, and training program available through the facilities of the juvenile court." (Ibid.) The probation officer is required to file a report on the minor's "behavioral patterns and social history"; the minor and the district attorney may submit other relevant evidence. In reaching its decision the court must evaluate the following criteria: "(1) The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the minor. [p] (2) Whether the minor can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court's jurisdiction. [p] (3) The minor's previous delinquent history. [p] (4) Success of previous attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate the minor. [p] (5) The circumstances and gravity of the offense alleged to have been committed by the minor." (Ibid.)

Ordinarily, the burden of proving unfitness is on the prosecution. (Cal.Juvenile Court Practice (Cont.Ed.Bar 1981) § 5.27, p. 162.) But if the minor is charged with certain felonies enumerated in section 707, subdivision (b), he is presumed to be unfit for juvenile court treatment and must shoulder the burden of proving that he is a fit and proper subject under the five criteria listed above ( § 707(c); People v. Superior Court (Steven S.) (1981) 119 Cal.App.3d 162, 177, 173 Cal.Rptr. 788).

This case began on October 12, 1982, when Ramona's guardian was shot and killed with his own handgun. He was then repeatedly stabbed with a knife and cut with an axe. Ramona turned herself in to the police the following day after she learned that she was wanted for questioning about the killing. She agreed to take a lie detector test, but on the advice of her attorney she declined to be interviewed by or to make any statement to the probation officer.

The People filed a murder charge in juvenile court, because Ramona was 17 years old at the time. (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 602.) Subsequently, the People moved to have her declared unfit for juvenile court proceedings. ( § 707(c).) At the fitness hearing the minor presented no evidence. She declined to testify, again on the advice of counsel, and her attorney chose not to introduce a psychiatric evaluation prepared for the hearing on the ground that any incriminating statement made by her at the hearing could be used against her at a subsequent criminal trial.

The People introduced the probation officer's report. It stated that the results of the lie detector test were "inconclusive because of minor's erratic behavior during the test," but that her answers to questions dealing with her role in the killing showed she was being deceptive. The probation officer noted the investigating detective's speculation that the killing arose out of a quarrel between the minor and her guardian over her alleged involvement in prostitution and drug abuse; but he expressed puzzlement as to the actual reason for the killing, declaring "One may suppose that she had differences with her guardian, but there is nothing evident at this time to even guess why she took her grievance to such extreme." He nevertheless concluded that she was not amenable to treatment in the juvenile system. The referee agreed, finding her not to be a fit and proper subject for treatment under Juvenile Court Law because of the gravity of her offense and the unlikelihood of her rehabilitation before the expiration of the juvenile court's jurisdiction. ( § 707(c), subsecs. (2) & (5).) Murder charges are currently pending against her in the superior court.

Prior to the passage of Proposition 8, the rule was clear that statements made by a minor to a probation officer and to a court in a fitness hearing could not be introduced as substantive evidence against the minor at trial. The rule was enunciated in Bryan v. Superior Court (1972) 7 Cal.3d 575, 587, 102 Cal.Rptr. 831, 498 P.2d 1079: "evidence of admissions made by a minor to the juvenile judge or the juvenile probation officer should be excluded in a criminal prosecution, for allowing this evidentiary use of the admissions would frustrate the protective and rehabilitative philosophy of the Juvenile Court Law...." Holding in In re Wayne H. (1979) 24 Cal.3d 595, 156 Cal.Rptr. 344, 596 P.2d 1, that a minor's statements to a probation officer are inadmissible for any purpose at the guilt phase, we discussed the policies involved: "The cases have stressed the law's interest in encouraging complete candor between a defendant and his probation officer in the probation interview. The purpose of such an interview is not the marshalling of evidence on the issue of guilt, but rather the assembling of all available information relevant to an informed disposition of the case if guilt is established ( §§ 280, 702; Pen.Code, § 1203), or to assist in the evaluation of the minor's fitness for treatment as a juvenile ( § 707). Such decisions, courts have uniformly concluded, should be based on the most complete knowledge of the defendant's background that is possible. His description and explanation of the circumstances of the alleged offense, and his acknowledgment of guilt and demonstration of remorse, may significantly affect decisions about punishment or transfer for adult proceedings." (Id. at pp. 599-600, 156 Cal.Rptr. 344, 596 P.2d 1.) "The minor who is subject to the possibility of a transfer order should not be put to the unfair choice of being considered uncooperative by the juvenile probation officer and juvenile court because of his refusal to discuss his case with the probation officer, or of having his statements to that officer used against him in subsequent criminal proceedings." (Bryan v. Superior Court, supra, 7 Cal.3d at pp. 587-588, 102 Cal.Rptr. 831, 498 P.2d 1079.) "The testimony of the juvenile may be relevant in the application of any of [the section 707(c) ] criteria. As to the juvenile's criminal sophistication, his chances of rehabilitation, his past delinquent history and the success of previous attempts to rehabilitate him, the juvenile may be able to rebut the implications of a bare record by cross-examination of the probation officer and testimony of his own witnesses. Significant evidence may well exist only in the knowledge of the juvenile. As to the circumstances and gravity of the offenses alleged, the juvenile may be the only witness who can present any mitigating circumstances for the court to consider. Yet such testimony risks giving the prosecutor the advantage of an admission which could be used against the juvenile at the trial on the issue of guilt." (Sheila O. v. Superior Court (1981) 125 Cal.App.3d 812, 815, 178 Cal.Rptr. 418.)

We have likened the quandary of a juvenile subject to a fitness hearing to that of a probationer facing revocation of probation for a crime he allegedly committed. When the probation revocation hearing precedes the trial on guilt, the probationer must decide whether to cooperate fully with the probation officer and the court, thereby obtaining fair treatment at the hearing, or to remain silent and preserve his privilege against self-incrimination. In People v. Coleman (1975) 13 Cal.3d 867, 120 Cal.Rptr. 384, 533 P.2d 1024, we exercised our supervisory powers over the courts to prevent this dilemma. We noted that "It is apparent that the policies served by the due process guarantee of an opportunity for a probationer to be heard at his probation revocation hearing are impinged when he declines to avail himself of this chance for fear of self-incrimination. Constitutional values are similarly disserved when the probationer resolves the conflict in the opposite way by risking self-incrimination so as to testify at such a...

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