State v. Rudy B.

NJDC signed onto an amicus brief prepared by Juvenile Law Center in support of an appeal before the New Mexico Supreme Court that juveniles had the right to a trial by jury at amenability for transfer hearings.

A New Mexico juvenile brought the appeal when, after his adjudicatory hearing in juvenile court, the juvenile court judge found him not “amenable to treatment” and sentenced him to 25 years in adult prison.

Amici argued that the New Mexico Court of Appeals correctly decided that the New Mexico statutory scheme deprives juveniles of their right to a jury trial at an amenability hearing and is therefore unconstitutional under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Under the United States Supreme Court’s Apprendi case law, a defendant is entitled to a jury trial for any fact—other than the existence of a prior conviction—that might increase his or her sentence beyond the statutory maximum. The amicus brief argues that because the juvenile’s adult sentence—25 years—was so significantly longer than the maximum juvenile sentence—approximately 3-1/2 years until the juvenile turned 21—and because the adult sentence could not be imposed without additional fact-finding, the “statutory maximum” was the maximum sentence this minor could have received in the juvenile system.

Unfortunately, the New Mexico Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeals’s ruling, and held that juveniles did not have right to jury trial at amenability hearings.

Court: New Mexico Supreme Court
Filed: May 26, 2009 (download .pdf)
Amicus Brief Discusses: Collateral Consequences; Due Process; Jury Trial

Decision: October 19, 2010