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J.D.B. v. North Carolina
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Thread: J.D.B. v. North Carolina

  1. #1
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    J.D.B. v. North Carolina

    When juveniles face questioning

    CHAPEL HILL -- Five years ago I sat in a courtroom in Hillsborough, watching a hearing on the defense's motion to suppress a juvenile's confession. J.D.B., the 13-year-old boy charged with breaking into neighbors' homes and taking things, was a special education student. He had been questioned alone in a conference room at his middle school by a uniformed police officer, a police investigator, and the assistant principal.

    Without telling him that he had the right to remain silent and could leave if he wished, the investigator advised J.D.B. that he should "do the right thing because the truth always comes out in the end" and that if J.D.B. kept breaking into houses, he would "get sent to juvenile detention before court."

    Minutes later, the boy admitted to the allegations and gave a written statement. When J.D.B. got off the school bus that afternoon, another police officer was waiting for him. After the investigator arrived with a search warrant, they entered the boy's home and J.D.B. turned over the stolen items

    Before questioning him at school or searching his home, the officers did not try to reach J.D.B.'s guardians - his grandmother and aunt - because the police believed the family would not cooperate.

    During the hearing, the prosecutor argued that there was no evidence that J.D.B. did not feel "free to leave," a legal term that rings hollow when referring to children who are questioned by adult authority figures without a lawyer, parent or guardian present. The juvenile court judge found that the boy was never in custody and that the conference room door was closed but not locked; therefore, the investigator had no legal obligation to tell J.D.B. - as established through the widely known U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona and through the North Carolina Juvenile Code - that he did not have to talk to them and could have a guardian present and an attorney appointed.

    Our state Supreme Court agreed with the trial judge, holding that the custody inquiry is an objective test that does not allow for the consideration of the suspect's age or academic standing. In response, a dissent contended that failure to consider age would lead to an "absurd" result in which courts would apply the same analysis regardless of whether the individual's age was 8 or 38..

    Earlier this month the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the case, J.D.B. v. North Carolina, providing an opportunity to reconsider whether age should be a factor in determining whether a suspect felt free to leave, a notion the court rejected in 2005.

    The constitutional landscape in regard to the treatment of juvenile defendants has changed in the past five years, with the decisions of Roper v. Simmons and Graham v. Florida, in which the court held (respectively) that the death penalty could not be imposed on offenders who committed their crimes as minors and that sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole could not be imposed on juveniles for non-homicide crimes.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in both cases, emphasized that an offender's youth should be considered mitigating and not aggravating, and that all young offenders - unlike their adult counterparts - have the potential for redemption. With such cases serving as precedent, the odds are good that the Supreme Court will reverse the state court and hold that age should be a factor when determining whether police should warn a suspect prior to questioning.

    Yet, there is an irony to this story. Even if JDB prevails, empirical evidence shows that most young people - as well as many adults - do not fully grasp the meaning or import of the Miranda warning. In fact, even if the court were to hold that the warning should be given whenever minors are questioned by police, because of its contorted syntax and legalese, it is likely that this right would rarely, if ever, be invoked.

    For this reason, some juvenile justice advocates have called for a modified, developmentally appropriate Miranda warning drafted specifically for young suspects.

    Despite the irony, the case is an important one. The court's decision will signal whether it is committed to ensuring that age matters not only at sentencing but also during the investigation itself. In determining whether the questioning of J.D.B. was custodial, surely it should matter that the individual sitting alone in a room with two police officers and an administrator was a 13-year-old boy and not a 38-year-old man.
    Tamar R. Birckhead is an assistant professor of law at UNC-Chapel Hill.

    Read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/11/...#ixzz16ZssnOmt

  2. #2
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    J.D.B. v. North Carolina

    Docket No. 09-11121

    Issue: Whether a court may consider a juvenile’s age in a Miranda custody analysis in evaluating the totality of the circumstances and determining whether a reasonable person in the juvenile’s position would have felt he was not free to terminate police questioning and leave?

    Plain English Issue: Criminal suspects are entitled to Miranda warnings if they are questioned while in police custody. A person generally is considered to be “in custody” if a reasonable person in the same circumstances would believe that he was not free to leave. The question is whether courts should consider the age of a juvenile suspect in deciding whether he is in custody for Miranda purposes.

    Briefs and Documents

    Certiorari-Stage Documents


  3. #3
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Supreme Court to decide when a juvenile is 'in custody'

    In September 2005, a 13-year-old boy was pulled out of his class at a Chapel Hill, N.C., middle school, escorted to another room and interrogated behind a closed door by a police detective and three other adults.

    The boy confessed to a neighborhood larceny. He never was read his so-called Miranda rights, which include the right to an attorney.

    Should he have been?

    On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will take up a case, J.D.B. vs. North Carolina, that could have sweeping implications for young suspects who are questioned by law enforcement. The question before the court is whether an interrogator should consider a suspect's age before deciding whether to read the Miranda warning.

    Right now, police must decide whether a "reasonable person" would consider themselves in custody. If the answer is yes, then law enforcement must tell the suspect they have the right to remain silent, to call an attorney and, if under 18, to have his or her parents notified.

    The court's decision is important, observers say, because it affects not only how law enforcement officers do their jobs, but also how juvenile suspects are treated.

    "It comes down to the type of society we want to live in," said Tamar Birckhead, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law who has written about the case.

    She and other juvenile justice advocates argue that children should be given extra consideration by police officers in the early stages of an investigation, including in interrogations.

    But those who advocate for law enforcement agencies say youths already have extra protections in court, and that police officers should not bear an additional burden of trying to figure out a suspect's age.

    "It's really just a matter of, how does adding age into the mix muddy the waters for police who are trying to make on-the-spot decisions," said Megan Miller, who wrote an amicus brief for the National District Attorney's Association on behalf of the state of North Carolina.

    The case, J.D.B. vs. North Carolina, arises out of a larceny charge in Chapel Hill. A juvenile police detective went to the youth's school after a neighborhood break-in, had him pulled out of class and then asked him about the situation.

    Twice, the detective asked J.D.B. whether he would be willing to answer questions. Twice, the boy nodded yes. The youth confessed after an assistant principal encouraged him to "do the right thing."

    The child was allowed to catch his bus that afternoon, but police later came to his home, executed a search warrant, found items taken in the break-in and arrested him.

    The issue in Wednesday's Supreme Court case revolves around the word "custody."

    Under federal law, a suspect taken into custody must be read his or her Miranda rights by law enforcement. Certain uses of restraint - handcuffs, a prolonged interrogation, certain surroundings - add up to custody.

    If the suspect feels free to leave, the rights need not be read.

    In J.D.B. vs. North Carolina, the boy was in a conference room with the door closed, but not locked. He was asked twice whether he was OK answering questions.

    J.D.B.'s attorneys tried to have the confession suppressed, but the local court refused. That refusal was upheld by state's appeals and supreme courts.

    But J.D.B.'s defense attorneys will argue Wednesday that while an adult might have felt free to walk out, a 13-year-old wouldn't.

    "Go through your own head," said Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel at the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of J.D.B.

    "Think about your own kids, in an environment surrounded by four adults. Could you imagine your child saying, 'Can I leave now?'" she asked. "It's almost laughable, honestly."

    The respondent argues that's not the case.

    In its brief, the North Carolina attorney general's office argues that opening the consideration to age isn't fair to law enforcement officers and would require them to consider a range of other possible considerations, such as cultural background, education, mental infirmities or other potential vulnerabilities.

    "Miranda works because it sets a clear, bright-line path for police to follow," wrote North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff.

    Miller, who wrote the amicus brief, said juvenile suspects already have protections during court proceedings. Adding age, she said, could lead to situations in which Miranda warnings are offered more than would be required.

    And that, she added, would result in fewer voluntary confessions.

    As for how the high court will decide, Birckhead said the key vote may rest with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the opinions in recent decisions that ended the juvenile death penalty and life in prison for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes.

    "He is the wild card here," Birckhead said.

    The Supreme Court will issue its decision later this year.

    Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/03/22...#ixzz1HMvN43K0

  4. #4
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    Access the transcript of yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court oral argument in J.D.B. v. North Carolina, No. 09-11121, by clicking here.

  5. #5
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    J.D.B. v. North Carolina

    Supreme Court Expands Juveniles Miranda Rights

    With little time left before their summer recess, and many cases left to decide, the Supreme Court worked overtime today, releasing five opinions.

    For our money, the most interesting ruling was this one, in J.D.B v North Carolina, which concerns the Miranda rights of juveniles.

    In a 5-4 ruling that split along ideological lines, the court held that juveniles enjoy expanded Miranda protection, the famous police duty to warn suspects that they have a right to remain silent, which the court adopted in 1966 to help guard against officers coercing confessions.

    Police must consider a suspects age when deciding whether to provide a Miranda warning, Justice Sotomayor wrote for the majority. Commonsense reality is that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave, she wrote. She was joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan. (Heres a WSJ report on the decision, which marks a rare expansion of the Miranda rule.)

    The North Carolina case involves a seventh-grader who was suspected in a pair of home break-ins. A uniformed officer took the 13-year-old student, identified as J.D.B., from his middle school classroom to a conference room, where two officers and two school administrators questioned him for 30 to 45 minutes, moving from small talk to admonishments to do the right thing and warning of possible juvenile detention before court, WSJ reports.

    J.D.B., who did not receive a Miranda warning, confessed. North Carolina courts held that J.D.B. never was in custody, and therefore no Miranda warning was necessary, WSJ reports.

    But the Supreme Court reversed the lower-courts holding that J.D.B was not entitled to a Miranda warning. A child is more likely to feel pressed by the demands of adult authority figures, Sotomayor wrote, adding that this is self-evident to anyone who was a child once himself, including any police officer or judge.

    In dissent, Justice Alito wrote that the majority shifts the Miranda custody determination from a one-size-fits-alltest into an inquiry that must account for at least one individualized characteristicage. The Miranda rules principal benefit, he said, was its rigid standard for deciding when warnings are required.

    Kennedy usually joins other conservatives in siding with police in criminal procedure cases, but he has split with them in juvenile justice cases, including his finding that certain juveniles are ineligible for the harshest punishments of death or life imprisonment without chance of parole, according to WSJ.

    The holding in the North Carolina case was one of four criminal procedure cases decided today; the others, which were unanimous or nearly so, variously favored police or defendants.


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