State v. T.L., No. 16-0054

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtChief Justice Menis E. Ketchum Justice Robin Jean Davis Justice Brent D. Benjamin Justice Margaret L. Workman Justice Allen H. Loughry II
PartiesState of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Respondent v. T.L., a juvenile, Defendant Below, Petitioner
Decision Date14 November 2016
Docket NumberNo. 16-0054

State of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Respondent
T.L., a juvenile, Defendant Below, Petitioner

No. 16-0054


November 14, 2016

(Barbour County 15-JD-06)


Petitioner T.L., by counsel Roger D. Curry, appeals the Circuit Court of Barbour County's January 7, 2016, order finding him to be a juvenile delinquent and committing him to the Division of Juvenile Services.1 The State, by counsel Gordon L. Mowen II, filed a response in support of the circuit court's order. On appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit court erred in relying upon hearsay evidence during the dispositional hearing.2

This Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented, the Court finds no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

In August of 2015, the State filed an emergency detention petition against petitioner charging him with one count of threats of terrorist acts, in violation of West Virginia Code § 61-6-24; twenty-eight counts of wanton endangerment, in violation of West Virginia Code § 61-7-12; and one count of possession of a deadly weapon on the premises of an educational facility, in

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violation of West Virginia Code § 61-7-11a(b). These charges stemmed from an incident in which petitioner brought a gun to school, threatened to kill other students and himself, and held an entire classroom hostage for more than one hour. The following month, the State filed an amended delinquency petition charging petitioner with five additional counts of wanton endangerment and twenty-eight counts of kidnapping. The following day, the circuit court granted petitioner's motion for a psychological evaluation to be performed by Dr. Ronald Pearse. On September 23, 2015, the circuit court held an adjudicatory hearing during which petitioner pled guilty to one count of possession of a deadly weapon on the premises of an educational facility and thirty-three counts of wanton endangerment involving a firearm. As part of the plea agreement, the remaining charges were dismissed. Based upon petitioner's voluntary admission, the circuit court adjudged petitioner as a delinquent.

The circuit court received several post-adjudicatory evaluations. The diagnostic evaluation conducted by the Donald R. Kuhn Center indicated that while petitioner was suspended once in elementary school, he generally stays out of trouble. The accompanying psychological evaluation found that he was suspended in elementary school for urinating on the floor and was kicked off the bus for "smacking a girl on the butt." The psychologist recommended that "had [petitioner's] offense been less severe, he would easily be considered as low risk of recidivism and recommended for probation[.] However, given the seriousness of the offense, the court may deem it necessary that [petitioner] remain in a controlled, structured, correctional setting."

Dr. Pearse recommended that a "therapeutic environment would be quite appropriate where he would be required to participate in the development of consequential thinking[.]"In October of 2015, petitioner moved for an additional psychological evaluation to be conducted by Dr. Timothy Saar. Dr. Saar recommended that petitioner was at a low risk to reoffend, but certain precautions should be taken. Dr. Saar's report was based upon the above mentioned reports and interviews of petitioner's family and friends. However, Dr. Saar stated that "additional information made known to his examiner may alter or change the opinions expressed."

An additional report and YLS/CMI assessment were issued by the probation department. During the assessment, the officer noted that petitioner "appeared to be cocky and arrogant" and felt "great" regarding his conduct at the time of the crimes. The probation officer opined that the Kuhn Center and Saar evaluations were inadequate because both failed to contact the proper authorities involved in the underlying crimes or conduct collateral interviews. The probation department conducted these collateral interviews during which it was disclosed that petitioner had family issues in which his father called petitioner names. The probation report also revealed that petitioner was extremely controlling of his girlfriend, fabricated stories to gain attention, was involved in multiple altercations in which he was the aggressor, planned the hostage situation, and the victims were still concerned for their safety. The West Virginia school system also submitted a disciplinary report indicating that petitioner had thirty-one disciplinary offenses, which included at least two suspensions.

In December of 2015, the circuit court held a dispositional hearing during which Dr. Saar indicated that based upon the probation department's report and other additional information, he would like to "take a look at that information again." At the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit

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